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

Sources: Obama pressed Bush for auto industry bailout


[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Christopher, Madison, WI

    Obama did not accept PAC money from the Auto Industry. The Union members were free to donate to the campaign as Americans. Cry some more Repukes. We won, you lost too bad!

    November 11, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Soccer Nana

    The Country cannot afford to lose anymore jobs. The U.S. auto industry must be saved. Some downsizing must be considered; but the American companies must be salvaged or merged together under one entity with subsidiaries to distinquish the vehicle brands.

    November 11, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. michael

    its not the lack of car sales at GM that has caused this problem they have a huge retirement fund to maintain which has exploded over the last 25 years due to early retirements etc etc this is why they are in trouble now!!!!!

    November 11, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Jon

    So much for a "private" conversation . . .

    November 11, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. Ken in NC

    Do a MANAGED BAILOUT on the Auto Industry. Give the Big 3 Auto Makers 30 days to put forth a plan to completely retool their plants to produce Hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles. Then give them a bail out with the CEO's taking a weekly or monthly pay check and a performance bonus not to exceed 4 times his annual salary payable only if the mfg. turns a net profit. Give this same bonus to other high level Execs. NO NET PROFIT.....NO BONUS.

    The day of BIG is gone. We must compete with auto mfgs. from over seas now so to do that we must make a better product for the same or less than they do. That is the only way the existing auto companies are going to survive.

    November 11, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. w.l. jones

    Every stream have head water so are our ecomonic and the Auto. industral were the engine that power the high standar of life for all American. The Bailout money is only a grant in what it will bring to our economic.

    November 11, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. Alex

    I'm sorry for everyone who voted for Obama. You got straight duped. He campaigned for change and everyone bought into it. The auto makers are failing because they don't make cars that Americans want. Their financial troubles are the result of capital market. Obama is rewarding a company that can't keep up. I'm in debt too and am not asking for anyone to help. If Obama really wants to bail people out then how about the people who over extended and can't pay their credit cards. Reward their bad behavior.

    November 11, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. michael

    yes we have to help them or it will effect so many hundreds of thousands other americans..but the money should be given with a caveat for them to produce only 'green' cars at subsidized prices to the american public

    November 11, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. pam Eugene OR

    No more bailouts. How about some of these CEO's giving back the outrageous bonus money they were paid. You could support several factory workers from just one bonus. No more money for the fat cats while the general population looses their homes and savings.
    NO last minute deals for Bush. Let him swallow the poison pills and not the American people!

    November 11, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  10. god bless the US

    GM sunk their own ship when they failed to anticipate the consumer demand for fuel efficient vehicles. If anything, i would like to see their 2010 Volt series at least be launched and put on the market and see how well it does.

    I blame the failure of leadership at GM along with their millions in wasteful spending on concept cars that never reach market.

    November 11, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. chubbs

    What a great day yesterday!! Seeing Barack and RuPaul in the white house!!

    November 11, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  12. FreeNLovIt

    We should bail the AUTO and have them USE the money to create better cars and employ millions of Americans. There's many businesses that will be directly affected, when they go down.

    November 11, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  13. bill for barack

    Too many American jobs depend on the auto industry either directly or indirectly for us NOT to seek a bailout.
    And the last I heard auto executives are not partying on taxpayer dollars the way AIG officials are.
    Maybe we should strip away all of AIG's bailout and direct that to the Big Three instead.

    November 11, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. AD

    Please voice your opinions directly to the President If you don't tell him how you feel, it won't get changed! Please, everybody, either lead, follow OR GET OUT OF THE WAY! Enough complaining. It is time to do something about how you feel.

    November 11, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. LaDonna

    wasn't this a "private" meeting? someone has diarrhea mouth and I bet his initials are B.O. stinks doesn't it?

    November 11, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. frank

    Last 40 years the Big Three US Automakers is the largest automakers in world. The Big Three US Automakers let the chance got always from them. Because The greed from CEO all The Big US Automakers. All the profit they make and they take the money share with each other instead invested into the company. Now they want us to bail them out.

    November 11, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. LaDonna

    to Ted in the Netherlands.......we don't need your kind of respect – you people need to be ashamed and put Joran vandersloot or whatever his name is .... in jail. Don't come preaching about our folks mister. Clean up your own country

    November 11, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. No Hillary = No Obama

    Yeah right. Like Bush is going to do what Obama says. These past 8 years have shown the country what a rigid, arrogant, judgment laddened person he is who operates not out of the good of the country but out of his own personal agenda and that's the way he will leave office. He should actually crawl out of the White House. Power corrupts. Just remember that when Obama takes over.

    November 11, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. kevin



    November 11, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. catmom

    Have you all not noticed that Obama is not President yet. As I have said many times , Bush is still the decider. why criticize Obama before he is even sworn in.
    I guess though you all who are criticizing would just as soon see hundreds of people out of work so that you can blame Obama for the high unemployment rates once he is sworn into office. Does Bush have any other ideas? They are still bailing out AIG even as we hear about them still living it up. All this does is continue to show poor leadership from the Bush administration.

    November 11, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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