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

Sources: Obama pressed Bush for auto industry bailout

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. America

    Too bad, many are "worshipping" Obama like an idol, it is the bad sign for America and the world. Even the liberal media and comedians are fearful for their freedom, that they are used to under the previous administrations. How an inexperienced Commander-in-Chief is dealing with the dictators throughout the world, from Russia, China and North Korea, to Iran and Syria, remains to be seen.

    November 11, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. Noah

    Of course he did. Obama wants to bail out every single industry. And he is going to do so by increasing ALL of our taxes, not just the top 1%

    November 11, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Iroko Nija

    Ride on my Obama, my President. President Bush should at this stage allow the Dems to bring into play,their vissionary know-how and ability to stem the tides of time to help salvage the situation right now,rather than wait till january 20th 2009. Americans are sufering minute by munite and can no longer continue to wallow in pain while the Bush lifeless policies last till january. The time demands and urgent attention and the only solution available at the moment is for Bush to play wise and give up his seat in the oval office,by allowing Obama take the decisions,while he will be signing the documents at least untill 20th january 2009.

    November 11, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. AJ

    GM is tanking because their product is not as good as others on the market. No offense to our workers at GM. They have not failed, but their leadership has. A bailout now would only mean a short term solution for a failing company. I think the best answer is to make it cost effective for foreign companies to build auto plants here in the U.S. where we have both a labor and consumer rich environment. Everyone complains about outsourcing, but it works both ways. Honda and Toyota have already done this due to the popularity of their vehicles in the U.S. Reduce barriers to foreign investment and you will create jobs without asking the taxpayers to invest in an extremely risky company.

    November 11, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. John in NewYork

    Being one who hasn't bought an Amercian vehicle since the 70's when I didn't know better, I say let them fail. I don't buy German and Japenese because they are cheaper I buy them because they are better.
    The problem with the big three is simple. The product stinks!
    This is gonna be a tough one for Mr Obama. Putting money into a sinking ship that will sink no matter how much money the country puts in without a major i.e bankrupcy reorganization will be futile. Get the Unions to by a sizeable fortune not my money!

    November 11, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Darko

    GM is failing becuase of the Union strong arming them into accepting over the top benefits and pensions year after year. End of story...

    November 11, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. NYer

    Looks like BARRY cant keep his mouth shut when he is supposed too. He has NO RESPECT for the White House or the USA. BARRY is a dangerous man!!!!

    November 11, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. wycliffe, NJ

    make sure Bush cleans his mess before he leaves

    November 11, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. Spencer/VA

    After all this time, Bush still doesn't get it. He will let GM go under. That shouldn't be negotiable when people are losing jobs everyday and we've lost more than 1 million jobs this year. The auto industry is part of the backbone, if not the primary vertebrae of this country. If anyone needs a bailout, it's these guys. And I'm curious to know how the trade pact with Columbia will effect Amercians. Is it going to produce more jobs in the U.S.?

    November 11, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. CAL

    How can anybody claim that CNN has a pro-GOP bias? @12:06, are we watching the same channel? Not showing the Obama infomercial was CNN's effort to be less biased and having a McCain interview merely worked towards balancing things out. You are an idiot to say the least. This network loves Obama (not as much as CBS or MSNBC, but quite a bit). Election is over. Mr. Obama will be in charge and commenting on his actions is fair game. Nothing to do with partisanship, race, etc. All about accountability. I did not vote for President-elect Obama, but I hope that I am wrong and he does a great job. It is in our best interests to hope as much.

    November 11, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. David

    “as long as funding will continue to go to viable firms and with strong taxpayer protections”

    Now that is funny – how can businesses losing billions and producing poor quality products be considered viable. Let them all perish. The market will replace them with businesses that are doing the right thing, have sound business plans and products, and the consumer will be better off because of it.

    November 11, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. Jenn

    WOW this is scary, we are going to bail out big industries and banks but let the little guy fend for themselfs.

    Bailouts are not the answer to our enconomy, no matter who we bail out it is only prolonging the inevatable.

    Big business needs to take the hit and let the bailout packages go to the little guys who will suffer

    November 11, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. nesy

    I don't get the free trade with Columbia, they already freely trade unmentionables. What is it that they have that we need so badly?

    November 11, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. John

    Helping the US automakers should have been done before the bank bailout. We need to stop the bleeding of American jobs. I think everybody that buys a foreign car should pay a 10% tax on that price. Everybody that buys an American car should get a tax break at tax time. We need to start rebuilding the American business and the American worker.

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

    Bailout the auto giants? Not with my money. These guys have had long enough to fix their problems. The original bailouts were dumb, as it has already been proven. If Obama gets his way he will leave our children with debt piled so high they will never dig out of it.

    November 11, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. JD in Moraga, CA

    I voted a pretty Democratic ticket this time around, and I drive a 2000 Ford Ranger...and I believe that bailing out the auto industry at taxpayer expense would be a huge mistake. Let the companies merge, or reorganize, or whatever they must (yes, including "fail") and let them do it without (more) taxpayer support.

    November 11, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. Matt in VA

    Glenn in California is either very young or blind to the facts. I challenge him to come up with any facts that substantiates his claim. As bad as things are now there are not nearly as bad as the economic legacy that Carter left. I lived through that. Many blame Bush for implementing the current economic bailout; Obama only wants to push this through so that should it fail the Dems will have one last thing to blame on Bush. If he is so behind a bailout for the auto industry, let him put himself out there in front of congress and push a bill through. That's where the last economic bailout started and where this would should. If the Dems believe so firmly in this then let them put the money where their mouths are.

    November 11, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. C Mc

    As a hard working taxpayer, I do not want my tax dollars to bailout big auto. They made the decisions, they made the mistakes, let them take the fall. Put my money to work for good. I do not want to fund CEOs or the able bodied feeding off my hard work. Oh and why is only one news channel reporting the disgust expressed regarding the leak of info from Monday's meet?... Hmmm

    November 11, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Luis

    Lisa – and why should we buy lower quality products when we can buy great imports at a great price? You miss the point – if GM/Ford/Chrysler made vehicles that were high quality, fuel efficient at an affordable price, THEY wouldn't be in this mess. I guess Americans see Capitalism as GREAT only if it favors their industries. The problem with American industries is they're not prepared for Global competition, they think being global is selling to Western Europe.

    November 11, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. John

    Of course Obama wants the Auto business bailout to go through BEFORE he's in office, so that he can't get blamed WHEN it fails...which it will. Bailing out FAILED companies makes no sense. Bailout the workers directly through re-education! Offer all the Execs jobs teaching at inner city high schools!

    November 11, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Francisco Cardenas

    Of course, Obama and the Dems want to help the auto makers ... the unions helped them get elected and now want payback. So, if we put billions into GM and they still can't sell cars ... then what will their workers be doing? ... they will be laid off while the corp execs that have no ideas will continue to get paid!

    November 11, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. FreeNLovIt

    I say bail them out and Have all CEOs and top execs do community service for 8 years.

    November 11, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. CTSadler

    Let me get this straight, Bush wants to hold up relief for a major employer in the US until he gets a trade deal with a narco state? Really?!!? God, I hate this guy. January 20th can't come soon enough.

    November 11, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  24. Hopeful for Tomorrow

    Either someone else is using "Truth Hurts" or he just did a complete 180 overnight on his perception of the President-Elect.

    November 11, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Bush bad, Obama good

    Apparently there are two kinds of people in the world:
    Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don't.


    November 11, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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