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Auto Industry Rescue

Sen. Sherrod Brown

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Madam President, I have had, over the last couple weeks around my State of Ohio, a number of conversations with workers and management both who work for auto companies, from foreign-owned Honda in central Ohio to the big three auto companies, which are very involved in the Ohio economy--Chrysler, GM, and Ford--and a number of conversations with auto suppliers: those companies that are less well known, companies such as Magna and Johnson Controls and companies that are smaller than that that are so-called tier 1, 2, or 3 suppliers, those companies that sell components into the manufacturing supply chain that ultimately end up in a Jeep Wrangler made in Toledo or a Chevy Cruze made in Lordstown, OH, near Youngstown.

In almost all these conversations, these companies, these executives, and workers are simply incredulous that the auto rescue is still being debated--that it worked or it did not work.

One just has to come to Ohio, and not just northern Ohio, where the assumption is that is sort of where the auto industry is in Ohio--it is true, but it is also in the rest of the State--but people all over Ohio and all over the whole industrial Midwest and I think all over the country understand the auto rescue worked.

We remember back when Senator Levin and Senator Stabenow and Senator Voinovich, a Republican from my State who has since retired, took to the floor--and in committee hearings and all that--in December of 2008, when President Bush realized the auto industry needed, at a minimum, some bridge loans to stay in business, not because we have any interest in the government owning auto companies but because we knew hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers and thousands of small businesses that manufacture goods in our State and in Michigan and in Indiana and all over the region, all understood it would be economic devastation. I think and I think most economists think and most auto people think and I think most Ohioans think it would have led to a depression. That was in December of 2008.

Because of a whole bunch of reasons, this place decided not to do what President Bush thought we should do. Then, later on, a few months later, when President Obama said we have to step up and do the right thing, it was still a difficult vote. It passed, with some Republican support but not as much as we had hoped. But it passed. This was in December 2008 and then early 2009 when President Obama took the oath of office. We can now look at what has happened in this country.

Fundamentally, we see an auto industry that is so important to manufacturing in our country and so important to building a middle class. We can see what that has meant to our country. I will give you one big example. From 1997 to 2010, every single year we have seen a decline in manufacturing jobs in our country--every single year. In my State, and I know in the Presiding Officer's State of North Carolina, in which manufacturing has been a huge presence, they have suffered as every State has. From 2008 to 2010, every single year there have been manufacturing job losses. But you know what, since the auto rescue, for the last 20, 21, 22 months, we have seen manufacturing job growth--manufacturing job growth every single month for the country and for my State of Ohio. Every single month, we have had more manufacturing jobs than the month before. That is not good enough because it is not enough growth, but it is clearly going in the right direction.

In auto alone, you can see what is happening in my State. The four large auto companies in Ohio--Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and Honda--all four of them have announced major expansion plans, major investments in our State, including building a new car in some cases, building a new line of cars, and in other cases expanding significantly.

Look at a car like the Chevy Cruz. Its engine is made in Defiance, near the Indiana border. Its bumper is made in Northwood. Its transmission is made in Toledo. Its speakers are made in Springboro, near Dayton in southwest Ohio, so the Dayton-Cincinnati area. There are brackets made in, I believe, Brunswick and other places. The steel comes from Cleveland. The aluminum comes from Cleveland. Stamping is in a plant in Parma--the stamping, I believe, of the components to the car. The assembly is ultimately in Lordstown, and 5,000 people work in Lordstown, OH, stamping and assembling this small car that has been one of the best sellers of any car in the United States of America.

In Toledo, where the Jeep Wrangler is assembled, prior to the auto rescue, only about 50 percent of the components in a Jeep Wrangler were American made--only 50 percent. So half of them came from production outside of the United States. Today about 75 percent of the Jeep Wrangler--the components to the Jeep Wrangler are assembled in the United States--is so-called domestic content. What does that mean? That means jobs.

That is why it is so important that the President continue to move forward--and I hope more aggressively--on the whole issue of auto supply parts. We saw how just 10 years ago we had a deficit with China of about $1 billion in auto parts. Today we have a trade deficit with China in auto parts of almost $10 billion. So I know how concerned the President is.

I know that American auto companies, including Honda, want to source more and more of their products in the United States of America. They want those products to be manufactured here in addition to being assembled here. And manufactured here obviously means it will be close to the final assembly point in the critical mass that these manufacturers want to grow jobs.

So we are seeing a partnership now that we have never seen in my lifetime, I believe, between the auto industry and the U.S. Government, not for the government to have ownership, not for the government to tell the auto industry what to do, but for the government to make the business climate for these auto companies more and more favorable. That is what is good. That is what has come out of the auto rescue for Toledo--the assembly of the Jeep Wrangler. That is what has come out of the auto rescue in Youngstown--in Lordstown, the Youngstown area--for the Chevy Cruz. All of that is good news, that economic growth, that manufacturing job growth we have seen for more than 20 months. It clearly takes us in the right direction.

It is important that the naysayers just kind of drop--I mean, they can say whatever they want about the auto rescue. They are going to say what they want for political reasons. But it is clear that we as policymakers--you know Presidential candidates are going to do what the Presidential candidates are going to do in both parties. I don't really much care. But I do care that this body, the Senate, focus its efforts on how do we cooperatively grow this industry. It means more union auto workers going to work. It means more nonunion supply chain workers going to work. All of these are good-paying jobs. What do we care about more here than preparing an environment for good-paying jobs that put people back to work and can help them join the middle class.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. McCaskill.) Without objection, it is so ordered.

(The remarks of Mrs. Hutchison pertaining to the introduction of S. 2151 are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'')

Sen. John McCain

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Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.