Detroit's Big Three Running Out of Time

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CBNNews.com - WASHINGTON - The heads of the Big Three automakers aren't giving up. They're back on Capitol Hill making another pitch for financial help to the tune of $25 billion.

Without that money, they say they could go bankrupt. But support for a bailout seems to be fading.

Round Two

It's the second act for the CEOs of Detroit's Big Three automakers.

This time their pleas go before the House Financial Services Committee after going to the Senate Tuesday.

"We are asking for assistance for one reason: To address the devastating automotive industry recession caused by our nation's financial meltdown," Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli said.

The executives are hoping for a more positive reception than the one they received from Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

"Are the companies ready to close down brands and factories and shrink their overall sizes? Is the union willing to go along with cost and size reductions as the companies restructure?" Sen. Jim Bunning challenged the automakers Tuesday.

"No matter how much money we put forth, if the business model isn't changed, you're going to fail," Sen. Jon Tester said.

But the automakers are running low on time and cash, warning that without a $25 billion lifeline, the industry could go under - wiping out 3 million jobs in the first year alone.

"The cost would be catastrophic: in jobs lost, income lost, government tax revenue lost, and a huge blow to consumer and business confidence," General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner warned.

Meanwhile, outside the hearings, auto workers, plant managers, and union leaders from Washington to Kansas made the same pitch,chanting, "Save our jobs! Save our jobs!"

"This is not a bailing out the automobile industry," said auto dealer Jim Arrigo. "This is giving a loan to the manufacturers so they can get through some very difficult downturns."

"To us here in Kansas City, this isn't some theoretical debate. This is real," Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon said.

Is Bankruptcy the Way to Go?

Democratic leaders want to use part of the $700 billion bailout package to help the struggling auto industry. That bailout package was the focus of another hearing on the Hill.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson resisted the calls for giving some of that money to the auto makers. Instead, he defended the need to infuse banks with cash.

Critics of the auto industry believe bankruptcy might be the best option.

In an op-ed from today's New York Times, former Massachusetts governor - also a former auto executive- Mitt Romney said that without the bailout, Detroit would be forced to drastically restructure.

He argued that "if General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won't go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed."

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