The chief executives of the Detroit Big Three - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler - returned empty handed after two days of talks at Capitol Hill. The three American auto makers have failed to impress upon the US lawmakers why the government should use taxpayers' money to offer them a financial lifeline.
Public hearings and behind-the-scenes negotiations did not help even as the Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada went to the floor seeking to raise the Democrats' plan to provide $25 billion in federal aid from the $700 billion financial bailout programme.
The Republicans objected, and effectively killed that option.Thereafter, Republican Senator Christopher S Bond from Missouri requested the Senate to consider a compromise that would fast-track access to $25 billion in federally subsidised loans, which have already been signed into law by President Bush.
However, since those loans were intended to let the auto companies retool their plants to make fuel-efficient vehicles, Senator Reid objected and shot down that proposal.
Lawmakers criticised GM's chief Wagoner and the chiefs of the other two car makers to long failing the need to build better cars and effectively revamp operations.
Facing their waterloo, the three had no answers to lawmakers, who found it incredulous that the three corporate chieftans had indeed flown in to Washington, on each of their private jets.
The media, too, joined the flaying, saying that there were 24 daily non-stop flights from Detroit to the Washington area, which Richard Wagoner, Alan Mulally and Robert Nardelli decided against taking, instead they spend a lot more in flying each of their private jets to Washington.
Wagoner also told lawmakers that GM had no options except selling off assets in case federal funds are not coming and is not filing for bankruptcy.
Options are almost gone for the auto companies. In the event that Congress adjourns without approving any aid, and the Bush administration refuses to act, the Big Three would have to wait for President-elect Barack Obama to take office on 20 January. Many say that even then, there is no guarantee that they will get their aid.
GM, burning an average of $2 billion each month, may find that its tank has dried up before it got to the gas station.
The four-hour hearing before the House committee raised the same questions that had come up during Tuesday's hearing by the Senate Banking Committee. Republicans reprimanded the three for procrastinating on their business models until now, when they are on the verge of disaster.