The three men at the head of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford are on the spot before lawmakers in the U.S. Senate today, pleading their case for a 'bridge loan' to help the automakers span the gap to a perceived future of prosperity. Remarks released ahead of the hearing before the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee detail the tactics that will be employed to divert the anti-industry sentiment expected from the legislators.

Comparisons to the $700 billion financial industry bailout, illustrating the small size of the $25 billion requested, and the fundamental difference between the outright grants proferred to banks, and the low-interest loans requested by the auto industry.

Mulally couched the matter as boiling down to two fundamental issues: whether the car industry can return to a competitive and sustainable future, and whether the provision of government assistance can help get the carmakers safely to that future at a smaller cost than the failure of the industry. Mulally, and the entire industry, clearly believes both of those questions can be decisively answered in the affirmative.

Mulally also detailed a plan for how Ford is working to help right its own ship, including restructuring the company to improve profitability and product mix, accelerate the development of new products, improve the financial outlook, and using the strength of Ford's global operations to help out the U.S. side of its operations. Both Chrysler and GM are also looking to take similar actions.

Asset sales are already underway, with GM selling its stake in Suzuki on Monday and Ford letting go of about 20% of its interest in Mazda today. Despite the moves made by Detroit's venerable denizens, the pundits in Washington don't see the necessary support in Congress for an additional loan package, and the White House today announced it would support a retasking of the already-approved $25 billion efficiency loan package, but would not give the OK to any new packages.

A bill put before Congress today by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada proposed just that, taking the extra $25 billion from the grant money allocated for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout funds. A similar measure is before the House as well, but it imposes tougher conditions on the carmakers.