[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.frank1.gi.jpg caption="Why did Frank tone down the tough talk?"]WASHINGTON (CNN) - When those automakers flew to congress in corporate jets to ask for a taxpayer bailout, no one was more upset than the powerful chairman of the house financial services committee, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
So irate over the use of corporate jets, Frank was determined to make sure it never happened again. His plan: no corporate executives coming to Washington asking for bailout money would be allowed to travel in those multi-million dollar symbols of excess.
To make sure corporate America got the message, Mr. Frank dropped a provision into the latest bailout bill, H.R. 384, the TARP Reform and Accountability Act, requiring would-be recipients of taxpayer funds to dump their corporate fleets. The message: If you want taxpayer money, sell your jet and fly commercial.
That sure sounded tough. And it sure sent a message to the automakers. When they came back to Washington, they drove.
But last week, Rep. Frank quietly stripped the no-jet provision from the bill. Why?
In a word: Kansas.
Kansas is a hub of aircraft manufacturing, particularly the making of corporate jets. One of Frank's fellow Democrat congressmen, Rep. Dennis Moore of Kansas, sent the powerful chairman a note that delicately suggested he re-think the tough talk.
"We have to be careful about Congress overreacting," Moore wrote in a statement.
What he told CNN he wrote to Chairman Frank was more diplomatic.
"It is clear that the auto executives were insensitive to American taxpayers when they flew in their private jets to request billions of dollars," wrote Moore. "But I have concerns that applying this well-intended provision may have unintended consequences of hurting the general aviation industry and its workers."
The congressman pointed out pointed out that 44,000 workers in Kansas work directly for the airplane manufacturing industry, and a lot of families depend on those paychecks. Last Tuesday, the "no-fly" language was dropped, and yet another get-tough message from Congress got a soft landing.
Late today, Chairman Frank sent a statement to CNN explaining his decision. "The private aircraft industry is an important industry in America, and it plays a necessary role with businesses in certain areas of the country," he wrote. "For example, there are a number of communities that do not have commercial air service available for hundreds of miles. Some of these communities are already in economic distress, and denying businesses the ability to use private aircraft further disadvantages these businesses and seriously impacts thousands of American jobs that provide services to this industry.
"I heard from many members of Congress from both parties representing a half a dozen states expressing concerns of their constituents in regard to this matter and hence why we further reviewed the issue and ultimately removed it from the legislation."