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Big 3 to star at D.C. forum

From detnews| April 16 , 2007

Time for another D.C. appearance of the Rick, Alan and Tom show.

The heads of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group have agreed to appear on Capitol Hill on June 6 as part of a daylong forum on American manufacturing sponsored by Senate Democrats, officials said Friday.Big 3 to star at D.C. forum

The lunchtime appearance will likely happen behind closed doors with most of the Senate's 51 Democrats, said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who invited the three CEOs. "This is part of a broader manufacturing summit over the crisis facing American manufacturers," Stabenow said in an interview Friday.

The participation of GM's Rick Wagoner, Ford's Alan Mulally and Chrysler Group's Tom LaSorda in the forum comes as the domestic auto industry faces the prospect of tens of billions of dollars in new costs to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions and dramatically increase corporate average fuel economy.

"We look forward to engaging in a robust discussion of the competitiveness of American manufacturing," GM spokesman Greg A. Martin said Friday.

"We're pleased to participate in an event that puts a spotlight on American manufacturing," Ford spokesman Mike Moran said.

The auto executives will use the session to urge congressional action to help cut the companies' soaring legacy and health care costs (more than $10 billion annually) and end the manipulation of Asian currency values. Democrats have been more receptive to helping the auto companies out than the Bush Administration.

The auto leaders also will reiterate their opposition to fuel economy increases set by Congress. They also could urge Congress to reject unfair free-trade agreements, such as the Korean agreement, though GM has yet to take a position on that pact.

Reaching out to D.C.

The CEOs are no strangers to Washington of late.

First, the trio appeared in front of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on March 14.

Then they met with President Bush on March 26 at the White House, after a prior Oval Office sit-down last November. LaSorda and Mulally have both made separate appearances in D.C. since January.

The CEOs have been reaching out to congressional Democrats. Earlier this month, GM announced it had hired Joseph B. Trahern as GM's director of federal legislative and regulatory affairs.

Trahern, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., worked as a special assistant to President Clinton and on the Clinton-Gore presidential campaigns.

In February, Ford named a new vice president of government relations, Bruce Andrews, an attorney at Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a top lobbying firm in Washington.

Andrews is a former legislative director for U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa.

Dave McCurdy, a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, was named president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group that represents GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota, among nine auto companies. He took over as president in February.

'This is about jobs'

Stabenow said she thinks the auto companies recognize that Democrats support many of their key issues.

"The auto industry is interested in working with people that are committed to keeping an American auto industry," Stabenow said. "We understand that the middle class of this country was built on our auto industry."

Stabenow said it's critical to ensure that automobiles are made here. "This is about jobs. And our middle class. We get that," she said.

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