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Kind votes for auto bailout; Wisconsin delegation split

Saying the failure of the auto industry would have a devastating effect on the economy U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., of La Crosse voted for the $14 billion auto industry rescue package on Wednesday night.

"I believe we need to make a decision in this country whether we are going to continue to produce the products we need, or simply import everything from other countries," said Kind in a statement.

He added that he believes that the auto industry is vital to the nation and is pleased that the plan imposes mandatory restructuring plans, a government 'Car Czar,' limits on executive pay, and provisions ensuring taxpayers are the first to be repaid over stockholders or anyone else

Kind was among 237 lawmakers who voted for the measure while 170 House members voted against the plan.

Two Wisconsin House members voted no were U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R, of Fond du Lac and U.S. Steve Kagen, D, of Appleton.

Wisconsin representatives voting to send the measure on to the U.S. Senate were Paul Ryan, R, of Janesville, Dave Obey, D, of Wausau and Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore.

Menomonee Falls Republican Jim Sensenbrenner did not vote.

Kagen opposed federal aid for Chrysler, whose parent company also owns the New Page paper mills that closed this year in Kimberly and Niagara. Kagen says Chrysler should get its own money by selling the mills and other assets.

He also opposed the appointment of a federal "car czar" to make sure the automakers take steps to avoid bankruptcy. Kagen said it would have Congress running the auto industry.

A Senate vote could come as early as today (Thursday).

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D, of Middleton, said he's still considering the package and he criticized a resistance by some senators to help workers, while being eager to help Wall Street.

Car dealers say don't blame us

It's not our fault. That's what Wisconsin's largest auto dealer says about the industry's financial problems and its effort to get federal money to stay afloat.

John Bergstrom of Neenah said the housing and financial crisis made the auto industry the victim of a ripple effect and he says the $14 billion loan package now pending in the U.S. Senate is not a bailout, but rather, a necessity for keeping Americans employed.

Bergstrom operates over two dozen dealerships throughout Wisconsin. He says consumers' confidence has nose-dived since September and they need a jolt of confidence so they'll start buying cars again.

Bergstrom says the federal loan package would be a good start.

The car dealer says his used-car sales are doing well, but new vehicle sales are struggling and his sales last month were about 30-percent down from the previous November.

Don Hansen of the Automobile Dealers Association of Mega-Milwaukee says sellers of the Big Three employ about 4,000 people in the region and he says the economy has forced that number to drop quickly.