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Minnesotans concerned about possible U.S. auto industry bailout

ST. PAUL - Minnesota politicians want guarantees that any federal money spent to bail out a troubled automobile industry be used wisely. For U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the key is that whatever money is given to the industry, automakers must...

ST. PAUL - Minnesota politicians want guarantees that any federal money spent to bail out a troubled automobile industry be used wisely.

For U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the key is that whatever money is given to the industry, automakers must be accountable.

"I have a strong concern that any support we give the auto industry must have strong fiscal controls and accountability," Coleman said. "The taxpayers of my state will insist on it, and I will demand it."

Coleman and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the way America's giant car makers operate is outdated.

A "reckless and broken model" is what Pawlenty called it on Fox News Channel. Added Coleman: "We need a Detroit auto revolution -- the kind that created the massive economic renaissance that built America at the turn of the last century. "

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., appeared more open, but did not want Congress to issue "a blank check."

"There must be proof that these emergency loans will be put to the best use and have the maximum positive economic impact," she said. "Any emergency package must be designed to shore up the whole national economy, not just one industry."

Klobuchar said Minnesota has dogs in this fight, with a Ford Ranger plant in St. Paul and the Iron Range, which remains closely tied to the car industry's need for steel.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., issued the strongest statement of any in the Minnesota congressional delegation in favor of a bailout. However, he wants a bill just for the auto industry, not taking out of $700 billion already designated for financial rescue.

"[The earlier package] does not include enough safeguards for taxpayers," Oberstar said. "It would have to be modified before it could be used to bail out the Big 3 automakers."

"Congress should pass separate assistance package for the auto industry, in the spirit of and along the lines of the 1978 legislation that saved Chrysler from financial collapse," Oberstar added.

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