Obama Supports Government Assistance for Auto Industry, Emanuel Says

Incoming chief of staff says Obama would seek aid through "existing authority."

Nov. 9, 2008 -- In his first interview since joining the Barack Obama team, incoming White House Chief of Staff Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said this morning that Obama supports government assistance for the auto industry using existing authority.

"First the auto industry is an essential part of our economy and an essential part of our industrial base," Emanuel said in a "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" interview.

"Second they should look at accelerating the $25 billion that was offered for re-tooling for the industry going forward.

Third, there are other authorities within the administration that they should use at this time and fourth, President-elect Obama has asked his economic team to look at different options at what it takes to help bridge the auto industry so not only are they apart of a revived economy but part of an energy policy where America is less dependent of foreign oil."

Emanuel's response comes the morning after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., requested Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson use the $700 billion economic bailout for the auto industry.

Emanuel also fielded questions on the terms of a possible lame-duck stimulus.

President-elect Obama said this week that he wants Congress to pass a fresh economic stimulus package "sooner rather than later," but the White House is reluctant to pass a stimulus in the final months of Bush's presidency.

However, the administration signaled that the President could sign on this year if Congress attached the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

When asked whether this was a trade worth taking, Emanuel made clear Obama opposes the compromise.

"You don't link those essential needs to some other trade deal," he said.

On what a broader stimulus would look like under the Obama administration, Emanuel said "it is essential that we focus on the stress and strains on the middle class," but he would not say whether the president-elect would postpone his proposed tax increase on the wealthy.