Obama said that "doing so would lead to a devastating ripple effect throughout our economy." He said the government should provide a short-term loan and said he hopes an agreement can be reached this week on Capitol Hill.
"I understand people's anger and frustration at the situation our auto companies find themselves in today," Obama said. "I raised concerns about the health of our auto industry a year and a half ago, when I spoke to industry leaders in Detroit. I urged them to act quickly to adopt new technologies and a new business approach that would help them stay competitive in these changing times."
The White House, too, promised to work with Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to aid automakers, despite mounting criticism from GOP senators who said they would not support the plan as it stood.
"The president and others are reaching out to senators today, listening to their concerns, listening to their questions, trying to answer their questions as best we can, making the case for why this legislation is the most effective and appropriate approach to help the auto companies become viable for the long term," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Republicans have been vocal about their hang-ups with the bill throughout the week, but more recently some Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, were also wavering.
To get the 60 votes necessary to end debate and vote for passage, the bill likely would have needed the support of at least 10 Republicans, probably more.
Missouri's Sen. Kit Bond, one of the few Republicans who had supported a bailout, said the version passed in the House "fails" to force needed reforms on the auto companies.
"While I am fighting to save Missouri auto jobs, Congress is just putting off the inevitable unless we force the companies to reform fundamentally, which this latest plan fails to do and is why I am offering changes to make it work," Bond said in a statement.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., condemned the White House's approach to provide money before the carmakers prove they have workable plans for restructuring.
Others object to the idea that a government-appointed "car czar" would know how to fix the industry and say the money will simply be wasted with no real changes being made.
"Americans are not stupid," said Sen. Jim Demint, R-S.C. "They know this bailout is only a temporary solution."
"The public doesn't like it," McConnell said. "And in our line of work, that's important."
As Republicans lashed out at specific elements of the package, the White House came out in its defense Wednesday, saying in a statement that the legislation developed with congressional Democrats to rescue automakers is an "effective and responsible approach" that will "ensure the necessary restructuring occurs."
Congressional Democrats drafted the latest text of the measure Wednesday after coming to an agreement with the White House on the language.
"This gets us to the 20-yard line, but getting over the goal line will take a major effort," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Tuesday night. "We will need the personal involvement of President Bush and President-elect Obama."
For the measure to pass in the House, Pelosi caved on several major points. According to her aides, she now feels the House bill is a "take it or leave it" proposition to the Senate.