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Automakers Idle Plants While Awaiting Federal Action

Faced with historically slow sales, the big three auto companies have made more cost-cutting moves, including temporarily shuttering plants, in an attempt to stay afloat while the government debates an auto industry aid package. A reporter in Detroit provides an update.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next, that crisis still facing Detroit automakers. President Bush has been weighing whether to use federal money and credit to help the automakers avoid bankruptcy. He was asked about those negotiations today.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

    The autos obviously are very fragile, and I've laid out a couple of principles. One, I am worried about a disorderly bankruptcy and what it would do to the psychology and the markets. They're beginning to — you know, to thaw, but there's still a lot of uncertainty.

    I'm also worried about putting good money after bad, that means whether or not these autos will become viable in the future.

    And, frankly, there's one other consideration, and that is, I feel an obligation to my successor. I've thought about what it would be like for me to become president during this period.

    I have an — I believe that good policy is not to dump him a major catastrophe in his first day of office. So those are some of the considerations that we're weighing.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Judy Woodruff picks up the story from there.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Even as the president is deciding what to do about financial aid, the Detroit automakers announced yesterday an extension of their seasonal production shutdowns.

    To give us a sense of where things stand this evening, we turn to David Shepardson. He's a Washington and automotive correspondent for the Detroit News.

    David, thank you for coming here.

    The White House said today there's very close to a decision. What do you know right now about where things stand?

  • DAVID SHEPARDSON, The Detroit News:

    Well, the most likely scenario right now is that they're going to provide short-term aid to both G.M. and Chrysler to survive into March and then basically give President-elect Obama and the Democratic Congress the option of deciding, do they add more aid? And what strict conditions do they put on the rest of the aid?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So short-term aid in the form of what and how?

  • DAVID SHEPARDSON:

    Well, they've got $15 billion left in the first half of the TARP. And they can use that money…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That's the Wall Street package.

  • DAVID SHEPARDSON:

    Right, that's the Wall Street bailout package. And they can use that money to basically help them pay their bills while they get through, you know, the remaining two, three months, as production, you know, continues to decline.

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