Yet More Bailout

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 12:39 PM EST

YET MORE BAILOUT....As expected, President Bush today announced a bailout of Detroit's automakers. But it wasn't the prepackaged bankruptcy option that everyone was talking about yesterday. In fact, it was nearly identical to the congressional deal that collapsed last week but with one big difference:

The loan deal [] requires the companies to quickly reduce their debt by two-thirds, mostly through debt-for-equity swaps, and to reach an agreement with the United Auto Workers union to cut wages and benefits so they are competitive with those of employees of foreign-based automakers working in the United States.

The debt reduction and the cuts in wages were central components of proposal by Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who tried to salvage the bailout legislation.

Those talks had deadlocked on a demand by Republicans that the wage cuts take effect by a set date in 2009, while the union had pressed for a deadline in 2011 after its current contract expires.

The plan announced on Friday by Mr. Bush offered a compromise between those positions, by making the requirements non-binding, allowing the automakers to reach different arrangements with the union, provided that they explain how those alternative plans will keep them on a path toward financial viability.

Republican senators apparently had a chance last week to make binding requirements on the auto unions if they'd only been willing to compromise a bit on the date. But they wouldn't, so instead they supposedly got the date they wanted but only as part of a "non-binding" deal. Sounds like a bad tradeoff to me. They should have taken the binding offer when it was on the table.

UPDATE: More here from Jonathan Cohn.