Commerce Chief Draws Line on Auto Sector Aid

Posted November 16, 2008 at 10:42am

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Sunday said the Bush administration opposes using any of the $700 billion financial system bailout money for automakers, saying it would set a bad precedent that could open the kitty up to requests from all kinds of beleaguered industries.

Gutierrez, who spoke on CNN’s “Late Edition,” appeared to move a step ahead of White House officials who have repeatedly suggested they could not use the money for automakers because their hands are tied by the language of the law – but who have not specifically indicated what they would do if they language were changed. Gutierrez was clear that the administration opposes diverting the funds to other industries beyond the financial companies for which it was intended.

“If you start that, where do you stop?” Gutierrez said. “There’s a line of companies waiting at Treasury” for a portion of the money.

Gutierrez reiterated the White House view that the administration would support restructuring a $25 billion loan already allotted to the industry so that it could become more quickly available. He said that to get the money in an expedited way, automakers must “demonstrate they have a plan” to become viable.

Gutierrez said automakers should also show a commitment to investing in green technology, but he argued that such provisions become redundant if the companies go out of business.