This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that would have prohibited the Treasury Department from issuing any further economic stimulus money to automobile manufacturers. It also would state that the Treasury Department must take its ownership in automobile manufacturers bailed out as a result of the stimulus law and issue common stock in the companies to each taxpayer. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds energy and water programs in fiscal 2010.
When Alexander offered his amendment, Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., attempted to defeat it with a parliamentary maneuver that takes advantage of a rule barring the Senate from spending more money than outlined by the Appropriations Committees. Alexander then made a motion that the rule be waived for his amendment, which is what this vote was on.
“The taxpayers have paid almost $70 billion for 60 percent of the stock in General Motors and about 8 percent of the stock in Chrysler. What this amendment would do, most importantly, is have the Treasury, within a year, to declare a stock dividend, which means to give the stock the government owns in General Motors and Chrysler to the 120 million Americans who pay taxes on April 15. They paid for it. They should own it,” Alexander said.
Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said while that idea has some appeal, in effect all it would do is water down the impact shareholders can have on these companies’ business decisions.
“What happens then at the next General Motors shareholders meeting, after Senator Alexander’s wish comes true? Who stands up to the management of the company? Does each of us give up a day of work and go to the meeting to sit down and help make these decisions? Not likely. What is more likely to occur is that the ownership of General Motors will feel no obligation. This stock ownership being distributed across America is going to dilute the impact of shareholder rights and the impact of shareholder power. I would rather have at least the prospect and the possibility that if the administration and management of General Motors goes too far in one direction, they know that … the money being spent there, is going to be a factor they have to take into consideration,” Durbin said.
By a vote of 38-59, the motion was rejected. All but three Republicans present voted for the motion. All but one Democrat present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules failed, Alexander’s amendment was defeated with a parliamentary move, and the bill went forward without language that would have issued each taxpayer common stock in U.S. automotive manufacturers that received stimulus funding.