Obama and the Big 3

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Here‘s a story out today on what Obama’s thinking about doing if and when he inherits the Big 3 mess. The big question is: what if GM doesn’t make it until the end of January? Bloomberg News today reports the automakers are pushing for a short-term $15 billion bridge fund that will get them to Inauguration Day. Where this comes from — the White House/tarp or Congress/modernization fund — is another question. Obama was asked about this at a press conference this morning announcing Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary. Here’s what he had to say:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

G.M. and Chrysler say that they will be out of cash by the end of the month. One possible short-term fix is to modify the existing $25 billion federal loan program to retool plants.

Would you support that? And will you — will you also asked Speaker Pelosi to support using these funds if necessary to avoid a G.M. bankruptcy?

OBAMA: Well, there are going to be hearings over the next two days. And I want to wait and see specifically what’s said during those hearings.

I think Congress did the right thing. When the Big Three automakers came before them a couple of weeks ago, they were not offering a clear plan for viability over the long term. And I think Congress was right to say that the taxpayers expect and deserve better than that before they are stepping up to the plate for any kind of bailout.

It appears, based on reports that we’ve seen, that this time now the executives from these automakers are putting forward a more serious set of plans.

I don’t want to comment on them before I’ve actually heard and seen what they’re putting forward. But I’m glad that they recognize the expectations of Congress, certainly, my expectations that we should maintain a viable auto industry, but we should also make sure that any government assistance that’s provided is designed for a — is based on realistic assessments of what the auto market is going to be and a realistic plan for how we’re going to make these companies viable over the long term. With respect to TARP versus 136 money, at this point, I’m more interested in seeing whether or not there is a sound plan there. And then I’ll be in discussions and listening about where the best sources of money are. But I think it’s premature to get into that issue.