THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS SUNDAY, DEC. 21, 2008 GUEST: EXCLUSIVE: FIRST INTERVIEW WITH VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Happy to be here, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's so much to talk to you about, but let's begin with the news of the day. President Bush announced today that he's going to give a bridge loan to the auto industry, but they have to meet strict conditions by March or the money, billions of dollars, comes back to the Treasury. If they don't meet those conditions, will the Obama administration require the money to come back?
BIDEN: Well, we're going to do everything we can to help meet those conditions. Look, every stakeholder has to get in this deal. It's clear there's going to have to be some real sacrifices made. And when I say stakeholders, from the management to the parts suppliers, to the dealers to labor. And they're just going to have to do it.
They have to reach what the president, President Bush, referred to as viability. Roughly translated, in March, when they take a look at what it looks like, the next year they'd likely be able to meet payroll, they'd likely be able to sell enough automobiles, they'd likely to be able to float - keep themselves going.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But labor says they're being singled out for unfair conditions, and they're worried about -- UAW is worried about this provision that says their wages have to be equalized with foreign-owned companies. They want that change.
Does the Obama administration willing to change that part of the agreement?
BIDEN: Well, I'm not going to get into the specifics of what we're willing to change. I would just say one thing generically. Labor isn't the reason why the automobile companies are in the trouble they're in. Labor is going to have to make some additional sacrifices, and they know it and they understand it.
But the idea that -- every once in a while I turn on the television and I read $73 per hour and all that kind of thing. Well, that counts legacy costs, that counts costs that have built up over the past 40 years.
You know, it's a little bit misleading to imply -- it's been very bad decisions made about the type of automobiles, the way to market automobiles, the way to allocate costs that has been the overwhelming reason why the industry is in trouble. But labor, in order to save their own jobs, in order to save the prospect of an industry, is going to have to make some more sacrifices...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're saying they can't do it. Are you open to adjustments or not?
BIDEN: Well, it remains to be seen, George. We haven't seen the detail of it. It just got announced last Friday. I haven't had a chance to look at all the details, nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Barack, has the president-elect. And so -- but the bottom line here is all of the stakeholders are going to have to make some real sacrifices.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is against the backdrop of an economy in deep trouble.
BIDEN: Exactly right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And members of your transition have gone up to Capitol Hill this week and said that the economic rescue package has to be in the range of about $700 billion, it could go as high as $850 billion.
Why is a package of that size necessary?