House Republicans Tell Bush: No Bailout for Detroit

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2008 05:50 PM

By David A. Patten

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In letters sent from both House and Senate Republicans, President Bush has been warned not to give funds that Congress expressly appropriated for "financial institutions" to Detroit automakers.

The House letter also suggested such a move by Bush may be illegal and unconstitutional, noting that only Congress has the right to appropriate taxpayer funds.

Last week, Democrats suffered a major rebuke after their proposed bailout bill failed in the Senate. Senate Democrats could not muster enough voters to overcome a Republican filibuster of the bill.

Facing growing opposition from conservatives, President Bush may be backing away from a quick auto-industry bailout.

“I think you all led yourselves to believe that [the bailout] would be almost immediately,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told the White House press corps Tuesday. “We did not signal that it would be almost immediate.”

Bush faces a growing phalanx of conservative foes who staunchly oppose any use of federal bailout funds to help car manufacturers unless the United Auto Workers (UAW) union offers more concessions.

White House officials insist they remain committed to rescuing carmakers and are merely gathering more financial information to precisely gauge how much money the auto executives actually need.

On Monday, Bush received a letter signed by 26 House Republicans opposing the use of funds from the $700 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bailout the “Big Three” automakers. The TARP legislation, the representatives said, specified that the money was for “financial institutions.”

[To view the complete letter sent to the president by 26 members of the House of Representatives - Go Here Now]

The conservative congressmen opposing the presidential bailout are led by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Rep. Thomas Price, R-Ga. Other signatories include GOP representatives Tom Feeney of Florida, Lamar Smith of Texas, and John Shadegg of Arizona.

American taxpayers, the congressmen insisted, “cannot afford to save every company facing financial peril.” Their letter urges Bush “not expand the use of TARP money to bailout American auto manufacturers” for the sake of “the long-term stability of our nation and our automotive manufacturers.”

The White House received more non-greeting card mail on Tuesday – this time a letter from seven Republican senators also urging President Bush not to use TARP funds to rescue carmakers.

Those GOP senators -- Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Ensign of Nevada, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas , Michael Enzi of Wyoming, and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia -- noted that Congress rejected the bailout after “the United Auto Workers (UAW) union refused to agree to changes necessary to help the Big Three automakers become competitive.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., tried to broker a last-minute agreement, but the deal fell through after the UAW balked at lowering compensation to levels “at parity” with the pay of autoworkers employed by Japanese companies in the United States.

Without such an agreement, the senators wrote, “we do not believe any amount of money will succeed in saving these companies.”

When it became clear the $14 billion auto bailout bill had little chance of being passed in the Senate last week, President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush to intervene.

“My hope is that the administration and the Congress will still find a way to give the industry the temporary assistance it needs, while demanding the long-term restructuring that is absolutely required,” Obama said.

The Bush administration promised it would act to halt a “precipitous collapse” of the U.S. auto industry.

TARP is thought to be the only source of funds sufficient to keep auto makers afloat, but authorities have already burned through most of the first $350 billion that can be spent without further authorization.

CBS News has reported that only about $15 billion remains unspent from the first $350 billion -- just enough to keep the Big 3 on the road to economic recovery without having to file for bankruptcy protection in coming weeks. Dipping into the second $350 will require further action by Congress.

There is no word yet on when the review of automakers’ financial needs by the Bush administration will be completed.

[To view the complete letter sent to the president by 26 members of the House of Representatives - Go Here Now]

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