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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 12, 2008

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route College Station, Texas

MS. PERINO:  All right.  I will have something for you on the automotive industry vote from last night in just a moment.  Just a reminder that we're on our way to Texas.  The President is going to be giving a commencement address at Texas A&M University.  On board with us today, Congressman Jeb Hensarling, Congressman Chet Edwards, and Congressman Joe Barton.  All of them are Aggies.  We also have one of our favorite Aggies, Cathy Gillespie, on board with us, as well, Ed Gillespie's wife.

     Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journal is on board, and she will interview the President on this trip.  The President recorded his weekly radio address this morning.  In it he will talk about the administration's effort to reduce drug use -- that new data that came out this week we've talked about.  Also today, ONDCP Director John Walters and actor Gary Sinise will host separate sessions of Ask the White House.  Director Walters will be talking about those drug use numbers, and Gary Sinise was awarded the President's Citizens Medal -- Presidential Citizens Medal on Wednesday, and he will discuss Operation Iraqi Children and the importance of community service.

     On the auto industry, I'm going to go through this for you, and then I'll take a few of your questions, and then I'm sure you'll want to do a wire call.  President Bush this morning repeated that he's very concerned about the state of our weakened economy, and that he's also very concerned about the ramifications that a disorderly bankruptcy in the automotive industry could have on our economy. 

     It is disappointing that while appropriate and effective legislation to assist and restructure troubled automakers received majority support in both Houses, Congress nevertheless failed to pass final legislation.  The approach in that legislation provided an opportunity to use funds already appropriated for automakers, and presented the best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy, while ensuring taxpayer funds go only to firms whose stakeholders were prepared to make the difficult decisions to become viable, competitive firms in the future.  That has been our position for some time, as those of you covering it have known.

     Under normal economic conditions, we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms.  However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers.  A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time.

     While the federal government may need to step in to prevent an immediate failure, the auto companies, their labor unions, and all other stakeholders must be prepared to make the meaningful concessions necessary to become viable.

     That's all I've got.

     Q    What does that mean?

     Q    Will you start --

     MS. PERINO:  Meanwhile, you could relisten to your tape.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Will you start using TARP money now?  Are you going to direct the Treasury --

     MS. PERINO:  I didn't say that.  I didn't say that.  I said that given the current state of the U.S. economy, we'll consider other options if necessary, and I said including use of some of the TARP; that's one of the options.

     Q    How soon -- walk us through his thought process right now.  Who does he need to talk to first?  What decisions need to be made before he decides --

     MS. PERINO:  He's in regular contact with all of his economic advisors.  And so we'll be weighing all of the options and making decisions as soon as we need to.

     Q    How soon does he feel he needs to make a decision?

     MS. PERINO:  We didn't discuss that.  I mean, obviously we have talked about the urgency of the situation.  We have been pushing to get this done; we wanted to get it done last night.  Both Congress and the -- the House and the Senate had bipartisan majorities supporting our approach, but they didn't get it over the goal line.  And so we have to consider what other options we would take.  But I don't have a time frame on it.

     Q    Are you basically saying that you are going to make the decision -- it's not Congress now?  I mean, basically, you are going to make the decision on what to do --

     MS. PERINO:  Congress spoke.  Congress spoke last night.  They don't have the votes to do anything, despite having majorities in both the House and the Senate supporting a reasonable approach that we put forward.  We thought that the legislation could have even been improved.  We thought that senators were making good progress last night and talking about the Corker amendment.  But again, it just -- it didn't get the votes that it needed to pass the Senate.  They needed 60; I think they had 53.

     Q    You mentioned the use of -- you mentioned TARP funds as one option.  Are there any other options?

     MS. PERINO:  We're going to weigh all options.  I mentioned TARP, as that's been something that you all have been asking about for weeks.  And it's just one of the options that's out there, sure.

     Q    Can you describe the other options?

     MS. PERINO:  No.

     Q    Is the Federal Reserve -- cash from the Federal Reserve an option?

     MS. PERINO:  I don't know.

     Q    Will the decision be made this week?  I mean, it's Friday today.  Or is next week --

     MS. PERINO:  I don't know.

     Q    Dana, how will the White House be working with the auto companies to determine whether they will have a viability plan or not?  How will they work it out?

     MS. PERINO:  Well, we've been in contact with them regularly and we have been reviewing their plans, we've been actively engaged in looking -- trying to pass this legislation.  And I think we'll just have to -- you're just going to have to give us a little bit of time.  This vote just happened late last night.  It's 8:30 a.m. this morning or 8:45 a.m.  Just give us a little bit of time to look at it.  But this provides you an idea of where we're headed, which is we think that the current weakened state of the economy is such that it could not withstand a body blow like a disorderly bankruptcy in the auto industry.

     Q    And are you satisfied with the viability plans you've seen so far?

     MS. PERINO:  I'll decline to comment because we haven't so far and we'll have to take another look at what they might need and how we might be able to provide that as a short-term mechanism to help prevent a disorderly bankruptcy that we think could devastate further an already very weak economy.

     Q    So you'd still like to see kind of some sort of bridge similar to what the Congress proposed in --

     MS. PERINO:  I'm not going to describe it in any other way except to say that we're looking at all the options that we could possibly look at, including the use of TARP funds.

     Q    Did the President meet with any staff this morning before he left, or did he talk to Mr. Paulson?

     MS. PERINO:  The President saw Josh Bolten early this morning.  He got briefed also late last night.

     Q    Sorry -- this morning -- I couldn't hear.  The President this morning --

     MS. PERINO:  He asked if he'd met with any staff.


     Q    Yes.

     MS. PERINO:  Including Josh Bolten and me and Ed Gillespie and I don't know who else, but the President is an early riser and this is important enough that he was up early talking about it.

     Q    Did he consult with Paulson?

     MS. PERINO:  I don't know if they've spoken today.  I know they spoke -- they speak regularly.  I think -- I know they spoke yesterday.  So I don't know if they've talked today.

     Q    Did he have any discussions with senators, Republican senators yesterday to try to convince them or talk to them --

     MS. PERINO:  -- because the vote came together very late and there was a holiday reception that happened sort of right in the middle of it.  And I think some people didn't think there was going to be a vote last night.  I think that includes some of you.  So I just don't know about that.

     Q    Could you just repeat that penultimate sentence where in your statement you mentioned TARP money, how you did it?

     MS. PERINO:  It was in the ultimate sentence.  What I'm going to -- this is what I'm going to do:  I'm going to let you guys make a wire call and then I'm going to release what I just said so that folks back home can have it verbatim.  Is that all right?

     Q    Yes.

     MS. PERINO:  But what I said was, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary, including use of the TARP program, to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers.  Is that the one you're talking about?

     Q    Can I make one last try on any time frame on a decision?

     MS. PERINO:  No.  I mean, you could try, but I don't have anything for you.

                                         END                   8:52 A.M. EST