The stiff opposition to the White House's potential use of money from the TARP fund for General Motors and Chrysler emerged as a decision on the funds has apparently lost some of its urgency.
After a frantic effort to win passage in Congress failed last week, there is no anticipation of an imminent auto deal.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto told ABC News this week that the people working on a possible rescue plan can't be rushed and don't like their choices.
"It's a huge industry, and both the problem and the potential solutions are complicated," Fratto said. "Congress is leaving the administration with suboptimal choices to deal with the issue."
But because Congress failed to act, Fratto explained, "we have a responsibility to deal with it."
The administration received a letter Tuesday from seven Republican senators urging the White House not to use TARP funds to tow GM and Chrysler back from the brink.
The letter was signed by Sens. Jim DeMint, S.C.; Jeff Sessions, Ala.; John Ensign, Nev.; Tom Coburn, Okla.; John Cornyn, Texas; Mike Enzi, Wyo.; and Saxby Chambliss, Ga.
The senators cautioned that without requiring "sufficient reforms" among automakers and the United Auto Workers, bailout funds would not make a dent in solving the industry's problems.
"Absent such restructuring, we do not believe any amount of money will succeed in saving these companies," the senators wrote.
In their own letter to the president, more than two dozen House lawmakers also voiced their concerns about using TARP money.
"Tempting as it is to step in with a federal bailout, American taxpayers cannot afford to save every company facing financial peril," the letter from the House lawmakers said.
The House members also argued that "The legislation allows the $700 billion to be used for leveraging 'financial institutions,' which auto manufacturers surely are not. Congress never voted for a federal bailout of the automobile industry, and the only way for TARP funds to be diverted to domestic automakers is with explicit congressional approval."
Ironing out what concessions will be required of the car companies and the workers in any potential deal is a sticking point. After the House passed its measure one week ago today, an effort to do so failed in the Senate when Republican senators insisted on sharp cuts for unionized autoworkers.
"Since labor makes up 10 percent of the cost of a vehicle, we agree that all stakeholders must come to the bargaining table," United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger told ABC News. "The UAW has made difficult and challenging concessions in 2005 and 2007 negotiations, and we recognize that more may be required. However, we expect that the other stakeholders -- the board, management, suppliers, dealers and creditors -- must do their part as well, and they have some catching up to do."
Administration officials 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 of the auto industry or decide to turn to "an orderly bankruptcy."
Perino said there was also the possibility of a "disorderly bankruptcy," but she said that was not the president's preference.
ABC News' Charles Herman contributed to this report.