Senate GOP: Give GM to taxpayers

Senate Republicans unveiled a bill Thursday that would distribute the government's stakes in General Motors and Chrysler to taxpayers.

The bill would give the government's 60 percent share in GM and 8 percent share in Chrysler to the approximately 120 million Americans who filed tax returns in April.

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“Giving the stock to the taxpayers who actually paid for it is the only way to get government out of the companies' hair and giving them a chance to succeed,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).

The bill calls for the mailing of stock certificates to taxpayers within a year of the companies' emergence from bankruptcy.

Alexander said the measure is aimed at avoiding long-term federal ownership of the car companies, which would result in decisions in neither taxpayers’ nor the companies’ interest.

Alexander said he hasn't spoken to the Obama administration about his plan, which is unlikely to garner support from Democrats. The plan, however, may come up for a floor vote next week in the form of an amendment to Democratic-backed legislation, according to a Senate GOP aide.

Alexander said giving the GM and Chrysler stock owned by the government to the taxpayers seemed “perfectly obvious” since a sale of the stock could take years.

GM filed for Chapter 11 on Monday and the U.S. government took a 60 percent stake in the firm. The administration had already taken a stake in Chrysler.

Obama has said he does not want his administration to get into the daily decisionmaking process of the two companies and that he only reluctantly took stakes in the companies.

The GOP bill, pushed by Alexander, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), would also subject the Obama administration to corporate laws and shareholder lawsuits faced by executives of other companies.

Bennett said that giving the fiduciary responsibility of the companies to the Treasury Department, which will oversee the bankruptcies, will spur the government to return ownership of the companies to the marketplace sooner.

“We're giving the secretary of Treasury the same kind of fiduciary responsibility, and therefore exposure, that any officer or director would have,” Bennett said.

The bill would also prohibit the government from using any more bailout funds for the car companies.