WASHINGTON (AP) - Labor, the auto industry and lawmakers bargained in unprecedented private talks in the Capitol Thursday night, struggling to salvage a $14 billion government bailout of the Big Three carmakers.
"We're closer to agreement," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said after several hours of talks, although he also said an accord remained elusive.
Officials said the negotiations centered on possible wage and benefit concessions from the United Auto Workers union as well as large-scale debt restructuring by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.
It was not clear how far any of the participants were willing to go to seal the federal aid that General Motors and Chrysler said was essential to keep them from bankruptcy. Ford is in better financial shape than its rivals, although its survival is not assured, either.
The developments unfolded after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky joined other GOP lawmakers in announcing his
opposition to a White House-backed rescue bill that was approved by
the House on Wednesday. He called for an alternative that would reduce the wages and benefits of the U.S. automakers to bring them
in line with those paid by Japanese carmakers Nissan, Toyota and
Honda in the United States.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., took a leading role in the closed-door talks for Republicans.
"The meetings have gone very well," he said as he ducked out at one point. "We've got some issues to work out."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)