Reid slams Romney on Senate floor for opposing auto industry bailout

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday blasted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for opposing President Obama’s 2009 bailout of the auto industry.

Reid’s comments are timed to coincide with the Michigan primary, where Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are in a dead heat. 

Reid has become more vocal in his criticism as the election year has heated up. Earlier this month he questioned whether Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a potential vice presidential candidate, stood with Hispanics on the issues they care about. 

ADVERTISEMENT
If Romney loses in Michigan, where he grew up and his father served as governor, it would threaten his ability to win the nomination.

Pouncing on Romney’s moment of weakness, Reid recalled the candidate’s opposition to a federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

“When President Obama took office three years ago, the auto industry was on a life-support system. It was in really bad shape,” said Reid. “Republicans wanted to pull the plug. One man who is now seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States said, and I quote, ‘We should kiss the American automobile industry goodbye.’

“He called the death of American auto manufacturers virtually guaranteed,” Reid said.

Reid based his comments on a November 2008 op-ed Romney penned for The New York Times, titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailouts that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automobile industry goodbye,” Romney wrote. “It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.”

Romney argued that without a federal bailout, Detroit-based automakers would be forced to restructure their business operations. He said a federal bailout would blunt the incentive to address high labor and pension costs, “technology atrophy” and “product inferiority.”

Reid praised Obama and his Democratic colleagues for supporting a bailout, which he believes saved millions of American jobs.

“Democrats, though, weren’t willing to give up on American manufacturing, because saving the auto industry wasn’t about saving corporations, it was about saving millions of Americans who worked for these corporations,” Reid said.

The Democratic National Committee has also targeted Romney for opposing the auto bailout. The party committee released a Web video Monday featuring Michigan voters who question Romney’s claim that Detroit automakers should have been allowed to go bankrupt.