The White House said a decision on whether to provide an emergency loan to Detroit automakers is not imminent and suggested it's not definite either.
"We're not going to be rushed into it just because there's pressure from the media ... on us to do something rash," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Although the White House had recently given strong indications that an automotive bailout was likely, Perino repeatedly used the word "if" today.
"If we're going to use taxpayer financing to assist the automakers, all stakeholders are going to have to come to the table and be willing to show that they are capable and willing to make really tough decisions about the way forward," Perino said.
"We need them to become viable, competitive firms in the future. And in order to do that, concessions are going to have to be made by stakeholders," she said.
At another point, she emphasized, "We will do it if we decide to do it."
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin has said one possibility would be for the White House to use the auto bailout bill passed by the House as a roadmap and appoint the Treasury secretary to fill the duties of the car czar. But a Treasury Department spokesman said there is "no way" that current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would become the car czar.
That bill failed in the Senate, however, when Republican senators insisted on sharp cuts for unionized autoworkers.
Last week, the White House said it would be "irresponsible" to let Detroit automakers collapse and indicated it would come to the rescue.
In an exclusive interview Monday with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney considered what might happen if the government did not act to save the auto companies.
"I would be concerned if under these circumstances ... we didn't do everything we could to avoid those consequences, and it would have a lasting impact, if you will, on how we're perceived," Cheney said.
"We clearly are involved now in a recession," the vice president said. "We see that around us every day, but I think part of that is the fallout from the financial crisis we had earlier this year, and it's a global problem."
Administration officials are considering a range of options that fall into three categories. The administration could provide a short-term fix to keep the companies afloat until next year, which would not necessarily be as much as the $14 billion in the congressional bill. They could also opt for a government-forced restructuring that would aim to accomplish what Congress failed to do, such as calling for a car czar, labor concessions and creditor concessions. The administration could also turn to "an orderly bankruptcy."
Perino suggested today that there's also another option not worth considering.
"One of the options here is allowing the companies to go into a disorderly bankruptcy," Perino said. "That's one of the options that's least favored by the president. Put it at the bottom of the list, because he does not think that in the current weakened state of our economy ... we could sustain such a body blow."
Nevertheless, Perino said Bush is still trying to determine whether the industry is willing to make the changes that will allow it to be viable.