Rejected GOP Rejects Bush

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, December 11, 2008; 1:08 PM

Lame as he is, President Bush is still being treated with extraordinary deference by Congressional Democrats, who caved to White House demands over a proposed $14 billion auto industry bailout.

Senate Republicans, by contrast, are barely on speaking terms with the man. Rudderless and rejected, they seem to be able to agree on only one thing: they have no use for Bush or his minions.

GOP senators repeatedly turned down White House invitations to join in negotiations on the plan, exchanged angry words yesterday with a White House delegation led by Vice President Cheney, and are now threatening to block action the White House says is essential to avoid a massive economic disaster.

Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane write in The Washington Post: "The House last night approved an emergency plan to prevent the collapse of the nation's domestic automobile industry, but the measure faces serious opposition in the Senate, where Republicans are revolting against a White House-brokered deal to speed $14 billion to cash-starved General Motors and Chrysler.

"After battling through the weekend to reach a compromise with congressional Democrats, the White House yesterday dispatched Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to sell the plan to restive Republican senators. But many GOP lawmakers emerged from a combative luncheon with Bolten unconvinced the plan would compel Detroit automakers to make the painful changes necessary to restore them to profitability. . . .

"[M]any Republicans think the automakers' problems could be more efficiently resolved by a bankruptcy court with legal power to dissolve existing contracts than by a government 'car czar' whose actions could be swayed by Washington politics.

"'Instead of the car czar, this ought to be titled the president's puppet,' complained Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), echoing the concerns of many of his GOP colleagues. Corker yesterday unveiled an alternate proposal that would force bondholders in the car companies to accept equity as partial payment; force the [United Auto Workers union] to immediately reduce worker pay packages to match Nissan, Toyota and Honda; and ban compensation to idled workers, among other provisions."

Emily Pierce and Steven T. Dennis write for Roll Call (subscription required) that Bolten and Cheney's pleas at the Republicans' weekly luncheon "fell on deaf ears.

"'I think they had less support when they left than when they came in,' Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said. He described the bill as 'the product from an administration that wants to kick the can down the road and let somebody else deal with it. And, I think it has minimal to very little support in our caucus.'

"Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who has GM plants in his state and is one of the few Republicans to support the measure, was visibly angry with the reluctance of his colleagues to save the auto industry.

"He said Republicans had a chance over the past few weeks to air their concerns, but declined invitations from Democrats and the White House to participate in talks. 'The White House gave us a real shot to participate and the leadership claimed we didn't want to participate . . . because they felt that whatever came out of the negotiations they probably couldn't support,' Voinovich said.

"One senior Senate Republican aide said McConnell acknowledged during the lunch his decision to reject the invitations to participate. Voinovich said some GOP votes might be swayed with changes to the car czar language, but complained, 'Some of them, frankly, don't want to do anything.'"

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