Both parties pressing for decision on auto rescue

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WASHINGTON --- Conservative Republicans admonished the White House on Tuesday not to use bank-bailout billions to rescue distressed U.S. automakers, and a key Democrat demanded the government get veto power over the companies' business decisions as a condition of any aid.

The Bush administration said it was still evaluating options and suggested any deal would require major concessions by all sides. Complicating its task, lawmakers in both parties -- having failed in their efforts to push a $14 billion auto rescue through a bailout-weary Congress -- were pressing for an array of terms and conditions they said should be part of any Plan B.

"We are not going to be rushed into it," presidential press secretary Dana Perino declared.

Only a day earlier, President Bush suggested that a rescue package would come sooner rather than later.

Still, conservative Republican lawmakers, many from Southern states that are home to Japanese auto plants, wrote to Mr. Bush asking him not to use one of the most readily available pots of money -- the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund -- to help the U.S. carmakers.

And the White House and Treasury Department were in talks with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who has been pressing for big union concessions in exchange for rescue money, on the terms and structure of a possible bailout, said a senior GOP congressional aide.

Mr. Corker came close last week to striking a deal with the United Auto Workers union for a $14 billion bill that would have forced the carmakers to bring their wages and benefits in line with those of Japanese auto companies in the U.S. by a specific date in 2009. The measure collapsed after the UAW refused to agree to wage cuts that quickly. The new contacts with the administration were disclosed on condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to divulge them.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., weighed in as well, urging Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to adopt the accountability provisions included in a House-passed auto bailout bill -- the product of a deal with the White House -- as a condition of any bridge loans to U.S. automakers. That measure would have given a Bush-appointed overseer say-so over any major business decisions by the automakers while they were taking advantage of federal aid, including the power to nix any transaction of $100 million or more.


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