Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- "Car Czar" Award

Posted on June 8, 2009

Mr. President, I am here to present the "Car Czar" award for Monday, June 8, 2009. It is a service to taxpayers from America's newest automotive headquarters: Washington, DC. This is the first in a series of "Car Czar" awards to be conferred upon Washington meddlers who distinguish themselves by making it harder for the auto companies your government owns to compete in the world marketplace. Today's "Car Czar" award goes to Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts for interfering in the operation of General Motors. Congressman Frank is chairman of the Financial Services Committee of the House of Representatives. One might call it the "House Bailout Committee." Congressman Frank's phone call to General Motors always is likely to be returned since the U.S. Treasury recently purchased 60 percent of GM and 8 percent of Chrysler with $62 billion of your tax dollars. According to the June 5 Wall Street Journal: "The latest self-appointed car czar is Massachusetts's own Barney Frank, who intervened this week to save a GM distribution center in Norton, Mass. The warehouse, which employs some 90 people, was slated for closing by the end of the year under GM's restructuring plan. But Mr. Frank put in a call to GM CEO Fritz Henderson and secured a new lease on life for the facility." The Congressman's spokesman said that Mr. Frank was "just doing what any other Congressman would do" in looking out for the interests of his constituency -- precisely the reason for these "Car Czar" awards. As the journal put it: "...that's the problem with industrial policy and government control of American business. In Washington, every Member of Congress now thinks he's a czar who can call ol' Fritz and tell him how to make cars." I will continue to confer "Car Czar" awards until Congress and the President enact my Auto Stock for Every Taxpayer legislation which would distribute the government's stock in General Motors and Chrysler to the 120 million Americans who paid taxes on April 15. That is the fastest way to get ownership of the auto companies out of the hands of meddling Washington politicians and back into the hands of Americans and the marketplace. It also may be the fastest way for Congressmen to get themselves reelected. According to the National Tennessean, an AutoPacific survey reports that 81 percent of Americans polled "agreed that the faster the government gets out of the automotive business, the better." And 95 percent disagreed "that the government is a good overseer of corporations such as General Motors and Chrysler." And 93 percent disagreed "that having the government in charge of (the two automakers) will result in cars and trucks that Americans will want to buy." There should be plenty of material for these "Car Czar" awards. For example, last week auto executives spent 4 hours testifying before congressional committees about dealerships. I assume the executives drove to Washington, DC, from Detroit in their congressional approved modes of transportation -- probably hybrid cars -- leaving them very little time on that day to design, build or sell cars and trucks. I have counted at least 60 congressional committees and subcommittees with the authority to hold hearings on auto companies, and no doubt most will. Car executives trying to manage complex companies will be reduced to the status of some Assistant Secretary hauling briefing books between subcommittees answering questions -- under oath, of course -- about models, sizes, paint colors, plant closings, fuel efficiency, and why the GM Volt's battery is being made in South Korea. And should Congressmen run out of reasons to meddle, the President and his aides stand ready. Already, the administration has warned General Motors it is making too many SUVs and that its Chevy Volt is too expensive. The President himself has weighed in on whether General Motors should move to Warren, MI, and has fired one president of General Motors. Now, here is an invitation for those who may be listening: If you know of a Washington "Car Czar" who deserves to be honored, please e-mail me at CarAward@alexander.senate.gov, and I will give you full credit in my regular "Car Czar" reports here on the floor of the United States Senate. And after you write to me, I hope you will write or call your Congressmen and Senators and remind them to enact the Auto Stock For Every Taxpayer Act just as soon as General Motors emerges from bankruptcy. All you need to say when you write or call are these eight magic words, "I paid for it. I should own it." Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Wall Street Journal editorial from June 5, entitled "Barney Frank, Car Czar" be printed in the Congressional Record at this time.