Letter Encouraging Bridge Loan for Auto Manufacturers
December 9, 2008
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, emphatically supports Congressional efforts to provide a bridge loan to the three U.S. automobile manufacturers for operations until the 111th Congress can address the issue more fully. However, the Chamber is deeply disturbed by language in the draft legislation that prohibits the automobile manufacturers from "participating in, pursuing, funding, or supporting in any way, any legal challenge (existing or contemplated) to State laws concerning greenhouse gas emission standards." This provision is blackmail, pure and simple, and has major constitutional implications on the automobile manufacturers and third parties with which they affiliate.
The scope of this language is so broad that it would not only deny the manufacturers their basic constitutional right to use the federal courts to redress what they believe are unwise or unfair policy decisions, but it could conceivably also deny the automobile manufacturers the right to participate with trade associations (such as the U.S. Chamber), or environmental groups (such as Sierra Club, Environmental Defense or the Natural Resources Defense Council), in litigation for or against such policies. Not only would the terms of the bridge loan remove the automobile manufacturers' constitutional rights, but it could force these unrelated third parties to forfeit their constitutional rights sue as well, because they would be "supported in any way" if the automobile manufacturers are part of their membership.
The slippery slope that this legislation is taking has great implications for us all. For example, many environmental groups have publicly justified the denial of the right to sue on state greenhouse gas emission standards because the automobile manufacturers will receive federal money under the bailout. However, these same environmental groups receive large federal grants and benefit from contracts with the federal government, yet they too enjoy the right to sue the U.S. government. Last year alone, these groups brought over 400 lawsuits challenging federal polices.
This very bad idea needs to be removed from a very necessary legislative proposal. The denial of right to sue provision would set a chilling precedent—denial of the automobile manufacturers' rights to equal protection, not to mention ripping the heart out of our First Amendment right to petition our government for a redress of grievances—and is a step this Republic should not be taking. Citizens of this nation should not be coerced into choosing between needed federal assistance and the exercise of their constitutional rights. While we may be in difficult times, we still have a Constitution, and the American people still demand a Democracy.
R. Bruce Josten