Sponsors of the controversial Chrysler Corp. loan guarantees bill succeeded yesterday in pushing a last-minute compromise through the House Rules Committee, paving the way for floor action beginning today.
House leaders expect to continue debate on the legislation tomorrow and Monday, with final action Tuesday. The bill will be considered under parliamentary procedures allowing introduction on any amendment that has been printed in the Congressional Record.
The compromise would require the United Auto Workers and other unions to defer $400 million in new wage increases and other benefits, rather than $200 million as called for by the House Banking Committee.
At the same time, the measure would put the federal government first in line to recover any money if Chrysler goes bankrupt. The measure also would boost the amount of stock the firm's stockholders must give workers.
The 11th hour changes, worked out in a hallway conference moments before the Rules Committee met, were designed to move the measure closer to a tougher Senate version that is favored by liberals.
The Senate is expected to lay aside its consideration of President Carter's oil "windfall profits" tax proposal temporarily Tuesday to take up the Chrysler legislation. To bail out the automaker, the bill must be passed this session.
The last-minute compromise drew mixed reactions from major groups involved. The UAW endorsed the new proposals, and the Carter administration reluctantly agreed to go along. But it was not clear whether the large banks involved in the Chrysler financing effort would allow the federal government first crack at Chrysler's assets if the company goes broke.
Meanwhile, opponents of the legislation served notice that they would try to stiffen the demands that the bill would make on Chrysler in exchange for the government's agreement to underwrite its loans.
Rep. Richard Kelly (R-Fla.) told Rules Committee members he will seek to require UAW workers to accept a freeze on current wages, as the Senate measure would.
And Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), who helped draft the earlier compromise bill approved by the Senate Banking Committee, proposed a new version that would require the UAW to forge $475 million in wage increase.
The measure cleared by the Rules Committee yesterday would provide for $3.33 billion in financial aid for Chrysler, compared to $3.2 billion in the House Banking Committee's earlier proposal and $4.2 billion in the Senate version.
Yesterday's changes would not alter the portion to be underwritten by the federal government, which amounts to $1.5 billion in all House versions of the bill and $1.25 billion in the Senate Banking Committee plan.
However, it would reduce from $1.5 billion to $1.43 billion the amount to be raised from loans by banks, auto dealers, suppliers and state and local governments. The Senate version also provides for $1.43 billion.
The compromise also would alter the terms of the stock offering to Chrysler workers, providing for a gift of $150 million in stock rather than merely allowing workers to buy $40 millin to $50 million worth.
The wage freeze required by the Senate Banking Committee's proposal is vigorously opposed by the UAW. Rep. William Moorhead (D-Pa.), floor manager of the bill, said he expected the two houses to compromise.