Having once again outmaneuvered Speaker-In-Law Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), President Bush then took Congress to task for having been outmaneuvered.
Daniel Ikenson gives the backstory on the failure of the automaker bailout, describing how the Democrats are split between the trade unionists and the greenies, led by Henry Waxman (D-CA):
First, Treasury secretary Henry Paulson claimed he was unauthorized to allocate any of the $700 billion to the automakers under the TARP law. Congress didn’t challenge that interpretation too vehemently, and set out to rewrite the law to specifically authorize $25 billion for Detroit. But the White House indicated it wouldn’t sign that legislation, but that it would go along with a bill to redirect the $25 billion already authorized under the energy bill for Detroit to “retool” its plants to produce higher-mileage vehicles. This seemed the more workable political solution, until the Waxman faction objected and mobilized. Prospects for a deal went south after that.Now the President, in his weekly radio address, chides Pelosi and Reid for failing to bail out Detroit:
The funds in question were originally limited to helping the carmakers develop energy efficient vehicles. The plan Bush favored would have removed those restrictions and instead provided the money as a straight loan to the auto manufacturers.Pelosi and Reid wanted to give part of the $700 billion Paulson bailout to the companies employing the United Auto Workers, a key Democrat constituency. President Bush had Paulson decline. The hapless legislators tried to rewrite the bailout, but the President let them know he'd veto it. But he'd be happy to let them take the environmental strings off money they'd already promised the car companies.
“This proposal earned support from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, the leadership in Congress adjourned without even allowing this measure to come up for a vote,” Bush said.
But the auto makers shot themselves in the foot by showing, with their decision to fly three individual private jets to Washington, that they weren't doing all they could to help themselves. With that publicity, there was no way Congress would give them a handout, even one they'd already promised. President Bush knows how to swing a wedge.
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