Senate Republican Leader Answers No Questions about Auto Bailout

Tiffany Gabbay | November 17, 2008 | 7:07pm EST
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at U.S. Capitol

Washington ( – Senate Republican leadership is being mum about the proposed $25 billion bailout of the auto industry. 

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader of the Senate, on Monday declined to comment when asked how many Republicans he thought would vote against the Democrat-sponsored auto industry package – or even how he himself intends to vote. 

“I’m not going to answer any questions,” McConnell said. “We’re going to be dealing with this later.”
Reporters peppered McConnell with questions during a Capitol Hill photo opportunity introducing new Republican Senators-elect Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). 

Some Republicans, including Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and John Kyl (R-Ariz.), however, have already expressed strong opposition to a package that, in their view, opens the door for other struggling companies to seek government assistance. 

Even Republicans who favor offering some assistance to the auto industry, meanwhile, have placed stipulations on a potential bailout package. 

Chief among them -- a requirement that the funds do not come from the $700 billion bailout Congress approved for the financial industry, the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP), but from a $25 billion Department of Energy loan program that was specifically designed for auto-makers to retool factories in order to build more fuel-efficient cars. 

The White House, meanwhile, seemed to endorse that idea Monday.
"The administration does not want US automakers to fail, and in fact we support assistance to automakers,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. “We believe this assistance should come from the program created by Congress that was specifically designed to assist the automakers -- from the 25-billion-dollar Department of Energy loan program."
Democrats in Congress Monday unveiled their $25 billion plan to rescue the failing U.S. auto industry with funds carved out of the recent $700 billion bailout package. 
The chief executives of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, meanwhile, will head to Capitol Hill Tuesday for a congressional hearing on the proposed bailout and the three top executives are scheduled to address a House panel on Wednesday about their companies’ financial concerns.
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