November 11th, 2008
03:03 PM ET
6 years ago

Sources: Obama pressed Bush for auto industry bailout

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Obama and President Bush wave to reporters as they head into the Oval Office on Monday.
Obama and President Bush wave to reporters as they head into the Oval Office on Monday.

(CNN) – At their private Oval Office meeting on Monday, President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush to support billions of dollars in aid for the struggling auto industry during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, according to three officials briefed on the meeting.

The officials said Bush privately expressed skepticism about taxpayer money for automakers on the heels of a string of government bailouts for other industries, and the president also urged Obama to help push through a free trade pact with Colombia – a key legacy item for the outgoing administration that is facing stiff resistance from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

But a senior Bush administration official seemed to downplay suggestions that Bush was offering a quid pro quo by saying the White House still believes the trade deal “deserves to pass on its own merits” without being linked to anything else.

The officials familiar with the meeting said Obama made the case that dramatic action needs to be taken this year – rather than after he is sworn into office – because the Big Three U.S. automakers are bleeding cash at an alarming rate.

One of the officials noted that about one in ten jobs in America are tied to the auto industry, and if one of the companies goes bankrupt it could have a massive spillover effect into the credit industry and other sectors. “The numbers are so staggering,” said the official. “It’s a huge piece of the financial fabric of the country.”

The senior Bush administration official said the White House is “open to ideas from Congress to accelerate funds they’ve already appropriated” to help the auto industry.

But the administration official said support would come “as long as funding will continue to go to viable firms and with strong taxpayer protections” linked to the auto industry aid.

An official in the auto industry told CNN that bringing the Colombian pact into the negotiations could be a poison pill that prevents passage of an auto industry package. But a senior Democratic aide suggested Congress may be willing to call Bush’s bluff and try to pass an auto industry aid package without the trade deal.

The senior aide said Democrats do not believe “this president wants to add the demise of GM to his legacy list.”

soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. Bill

    I voted for Bush twice and strongly believe he should back off the Free Trade Agreement with Columbia.

    November 11, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. KJ, GA

    Look at Obama, already demonstrating strategic and sound decisions! He's going to bring substantial positive change and make an excellent president.

    All those naysayers need to give chaneg a chance...give him a chance!

    November 11, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  3. Dave in Houston

    Mr. Bush, it's game over, man! You've had eight years to lead us and it has not gone so well. Don't try to stick us with another disastrous trade deal and hold American workers hostage in the meantime.

    Try to go out with as much grace as you can. Going along with what President-elect Obama wants to do and maybe, just maybe, you can polish up your legacy a bit.

    November 11, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  4. GOPS are going down!

    HEY CNN- all the reporters on your channel: Campbell Brown, Cooper, Griffin, Sanchez, Malveaux,Yellin, Dobbs, Beck, Bennett are all against an Obama win, for whatever reason and worked hard to stop Obama from a victory by making up false stories about him. Also Your channel didn't accept the 30minutes commercial that Obama's camp would pay for but instead you happily took McCain's interview on the same night that Obama's commerical was airing. How biased! Then you start selling T-shirts with Obama's name on it!
    Basically you guys are now making money off of Obama's victory which you worked so hard to stop. Do you guys have any morals???
    DISGUSTING!

    November 11, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. Barack

    Good job Mr. President elect

    November 11, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. Vincent in Charlotte

    That's right, show by example that you are ready to lead us out of this mess Mr. Obama. Prove all the smears wrong.

    And, if he does prove all the smears false, what will the GOP hate-machine come up with next election cycle to stoke fear, uncertainty, and doubt?

    November 11, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. Wendy Coppola

    People said that Palin was not qualified, let the comedy of errors begin.....

    November 11, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. ATL

    El Presidente ..... getting right to business

    November 11, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. BS not Maverick

    They are History as we know them. Throwing more money at them is not the answer. The only thing that can be done at this time is to “Manhatanize” a project (24 hr a day) that re-tools the American auto industry to build affordable, quality hybrids, natural gas, hydrogen and electric production cars, trucks, heavy equipment & busses emedieatly. They can also build other stuff like wind turbines, thermo plants, solar panels and anything that will get us free of oil. What they will have to weigh & consider is the value to the Nation in moving away from fuel based transportation, and forget extensive profit margins out of the gate. Other than that is to go to a more global solution with Toyota, Honda and others. One way it will be valuable to the Nation is that by reducing our demand on fuel means less money for Russia, Iran and Venezuela. That will slow their rhetoric and save us money from having to protect Oil interest abroad.

    November 11, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. Oseki Otens Evans

    Good man Obama!

    November 11, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. Hope

    Why are we talking about Columbia when people are hurting back home, DHL just closed shop in Ohio, charity begins at home, that is tax payers money it does not belong to the government.

    November 11, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. Jack

    Nice play Bush, offer to send more jobs out of the country and ignore American workers.

    Eight years is quite enough so, I wouldn't expect Bush to change now he got what he and the rich wanted reduced taxes, cheap labor and now a depression to make sure labor stays cheap.

    November 11, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Oh No, It's Barry-O

    Come on "W" ... Barry needs to pay-off the union contributors ... please!!!

    November 11, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Chris

    You'd think that any bailout would be contingent on removing all levels of senior leadership that drove the companies into the ground....as well as the elimination of the unions that have gouged the auto makers for years – yet...neither will happen as the Democrats run the house now – and union pandering is their middle name

    November 11, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. Chuck

    You have to act quickly to bail out the auto industry. No added republican garbage. Enough of the added crap to "make everyone happy". This is what is wrong with Washington, and the Bush administration is trying to strong arm congress. Can't wait till they are all gone.

    November 11, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. Sherry

    I own a small business can I have some bail out money too? What is happening here? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! with all this bailout money. The car manufacturers need to do like the rest of us who sell things to make a living. Start making cuts and slashing prices to cover your expenses.

    November 11, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    Ah, Obama, the friend of big business. If nothing happens this year to bail out the auto industry, Obama will step in with taxpayer dollars, for sure.
    I suppose, being such a pragmatist, he'll delay on changing EPA standards on auto emissions, tougher standards proposed by California, because this would not be the time to add to the burdens of the auto industry. If the California liberals balk, Rahm Emanuel will silence them.

    November 11, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. Matt

    let's make one thing clear: screw Colombia

    if we're going to oppose dictatorial regimes, let's start acting consistent

    November 11, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  19. thomas

    The United States may be one major bankruptcy away from financial collapse but Bush wants to hold the economy hostage for a free trade act with Columbia. Why is this man allowed to continue to govern? The republicans certainly don't owe him anything when you look at those who have been thrown out of office. For the democrats, it's a no-brainer. Impeach Bush and Cheney now. They deserve it and America can't afford to wait to move on the economy.

    November 11, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Rob

    For once Bush is thinking. Where is this going to end? Stop all this bailout of big companies who have miss use company money and padded pockets of exc. Let them go under and then mabe others will see they better get together. I am sure there is another co ready to come in and reopen the plants and who cares where their from as long as jobs are here in america. Mabe if unions hadent out lived their orig. intent and keep on demanding more so they to can pad their exc. pockets mabe we would not be here today. LET THEM GO, HARD WORKING PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF PICKING UP THE TAB . GIVE US A BREAK.

    November 11, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. He was only 90% Bush

    This is a tough one. I believe in the short term Obama is correct-they need a helping hand because they provide so many American s with jobs. On the other-hand, bailouts cannot be a longterm fix. The Auto Industry and Manufacturing in the US needs reform. We need to retool our Manufacturing Industries in the US to become competitive again.

    November 11, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  22. Don Sapaugh

    Less than a week as President Elect and he (Obama) shows his niavete' regarding negotiations and discussions which are "private". Obama must grow up to be President

    November 11, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    The bail outs must stop or the taxpayers will never catchup to what the democratic Congress for 42 years and the republican Congress for 12 years raiding social security and borrowing money from our non allies and all spending like kids in a candy store. I have even heard idiots on radio talk shows that think they do not need to make their house and car payments because Obama will take care of them!
    The automakerss should not be bailed out so they can pay for the UAW benefits with our taxpayer money.

    November 11, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Arthur James

    Hey, Mr. President-Elect,

    Can I have a million dollars? I need a bail-out, too. Times are tough.

    Hey, a million isn't much compared to the billions we're throwing around to bail out Wall St. and big business. And I deserve help more than they do.

    It's just a million and I promise to pay it back when I get back on my feet.

    I'll take a check.

    November 11, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. Kerri

    What a punk. He leaked this info which breaks Presidential protocol. Again this man proves he belongs nowhere near the power he has inherited (the media provided him)

    November 11, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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