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Corker worries TN plant could be targeted

Corker worries TN plant could be targeted



By Bill Theobald, Gannett Washington Bureau

Sen. Bob Corker said Monday that the Obama administration is making a "power grab” in directing the makeover of General Motors, and he wants to make sure it doesn’t close GM’s Spring Hill plant for political reasons.

"Certainly, I’m laying a marker out there,” Corker said. "I want it to be known (that) my sense is that the only reason they would close it is for political reasons.”

About 2,900 hourly workers are employed at Spring Hill, which opened in 1990.

The comments by the Tennessee Republican, a key player in congressional efforts to rescue the auto industry, were part of his scathing critique of the plan unveiled Monday by Democratic President Barack Obama.

The plan gives GM 60 days to come up with a proposal to fix the ailing company or face bankruptcy. It also pushes Chrysler to take a buyout from Fiat.

"With sweeping new power, the White House will be deciding which plants will survive and which won’t," Corker said. "So in essence, this administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free-market process how to deal with these companies.”

Corker came close to brokering a deal in December that would have made U.S. government loans to GM contingent on the United Auto Workers making concessions and the company’s bondholders accepting a small portion of what they are owed.

Under that proposal, the company would have been forced into bankruptcy had the parties failed to work out a deal.

Corker said his plan would have left the decisions to the company, the union and its debt holders.

But he said he realized after a conversation Sunday night with Steve Rattner, head of Obama’s task force on the auto industry, that the administration planned to dictate the terms of the restructured GM.

"They will decide over the next 60 days what GM will look like,” Corker said. "This is a marked departure from the past, truly breathtaking, and should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise.”

Corker said the administration wasted valuable time negotiating unsuccessfully with GM and Chrysler. He said the talks failed because the companies, union and bondholders weren’t sure the administration was serious.

"I think the stakeholders questioned the administration’s will on this,” Corker said.
He said the worsening economy and further drops in auto sales would require "more draconian” cuts now than if a deal had been reached last year.He also expects that members of Congress will begin "kowtowing” to the Obama administration, trying to protect auto plants in their states.

"It will be interesting to see if the administration makes these decisions based on a red (Republican) state and blue (Democratic) state strategy, or based on efficiency and capable, skilled workers at each plant. If they use the latter, our GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, should do very well,” Corker said.


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