Corker Pushes Back in Blame Game

Posted December 12, 2008 at 1:21pm

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Friday dismissed claims by Democrats and union officials that Republicans killed a $14 billion bill to bail out the auto industry, insisting that Republicans were willing to compromise on a number of issues and that an impasse over when the United Auto Workers would agree to reforms ultimately scuttled the agreement.

Corker — a freshman who led Republican efforts to cut a deal with Senate Democrats, union officials and the auto industry — said he never believed the proposal he took to his Conference late Thursday night would be agreed to, and never attempted to sell it as a deal.

“I didn’t even try to sell it. I tried to present it as a neutral deal. They knew when I left there was absolutely no chance” it would be accepted by Republicans, Corker said.

Corker’s comments come as Democrats and union officials blamed Republicans for the failed talks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a press release that accused Republicans of engaging in a “reckless refusal to save millions of American jobs” and of acting on strictly partisan grounds. In the statement, Reid sought to lay the blame solely at the feet of the GOP. “I’m disappointed that Republican Senators’ partisan refusal to compromise prevented us from achieving a sound solution to this problem last night,” Reid said.

In a press conference Friday morning, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger accused Corker and other Republicans of “insisting the restructuring had to be done on the backs of workers and retirees rather than have all stakeholders come to the table.”

“We could not accept the effort by the Senate GOP caucus to single out workers and retirees for different treatment,” Gettelfinger added.

The attacks on Republicans are in contrast to the statements by Democrats immediately following the collapse of the talks — when Reid, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (Conn.) and other Democrats lauded Corker’s efforts and seemed to suggest they would help lay the groundwork for further talks in the 111th Congress.

“I think the manner in which we proceeded with this — led by Sen. Corker on the Republican side — has been extremely good. … I think it is going to work well next year,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday night.