RNC, Chamber rail against GM plan

National Republicans and the premier U.S. business lobby railed against the Obama administration's plan to take a 60 percent ownership stake in General Motors.

Shortly after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted the administration's plan, which includes another $30 billion in new federal assistance for GM.

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RNC Chairman Michael Steele, in a statement released ahead of Obama's announcement, said the deal “is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign.”

Steele said taxpayers will “get stuck with up to a $50 billion tab for the taxpayer dollars Obama is using to pay for his takeover of GM.”

“Americans shouldn’t be fooled. This is the real ‘change’ President Obama has in mind for America — government ownership of our economy financed with irresponsible and reckless government spending and debt and no jobs to show for it,” Steele said. “This is a very sad day for the autoworkers and their families whose financial well-being will be directly affected by this clear act of an overreaching UAW and overbearing government.”

The $30 billion in assistance Obama is announcing means the total U.S. commitment to GM is about $50 billion.

Obama has repeatedly said he has no interest in the federal government running a U.S. automaker, and senior administration officials said Sunday night that they expect the day-to-day business of the company to come from within and largely without government influence.

Thomas Donohue, president of the chamber, said his biggest concern with the plan “is the potential for governments and unions to influence production, product, workforce, and management decisions in ways that could jeopardize the automakers’ chances for survival, put politics and special interests above sound business strategy and disrupt our nation’s trading relationships across the world.”

“If members of Congress, along with government officials from the United States to Germany to Canada, are allowed undue influence over management’s decisions, then you can write this down: These companies will not return to profitability and their survival will be seriously challenged,” Donohue said Monday morning. “The global talent that exists in the automotive sector must be allowed to do its job and be paid on a competitive basis. Management must be permitted to make tough decisions in a competitive global market without political interference.”

Donohue promised that the chamber will be monitoring the arrangement moving forward, and it “will expose and fight any counterproductive influence by government, unions, or politicians over decisions that should be left to management.”

“And we will continually insist that government reduce and eliminate its ownership stake as soon as possible,” he said.

At least one Republican lawmaker, however, seemed to view the move as a necessity.

Michigan Rep. Candice Miller (R) applauded the administration's “commitment and the efforts of his auto task force in the negotiations.”

“The sooner the federal government can return their position in GM to the private sector, the better, but we must also appreciate the fact that but for the federal bridge loans, we would most likely have been looking at liquidation in the case of Chrysler and disorganized bankruptcy in the case of GM, which would have been much, much worse for Michigan and for our national economy,” Miller said.

The GM announcement comes on the same day that a New York judge approved the sale of Chrysler to Fiat, helping the U.S. company emerge from bankruptcy, a move Obama said will make Chrysler “a new, stronger, more competitive company for the future.”  

“Only a month ago, this great American company’s very future was in doubt. Now, as a result of a substantial commitment by the U.S. government, and tough sacrifices from all stakeholders involved, Chrysler has a new lease on life,” Obama said in a statement. “We said this process would be completed quickly and efficiently, and that’s exactly what has been accomplished today. Tens of thousands of American jobs will be saved as a result of this extraordinary effort.”

Michigan Rep. Gary Peters (D) said the judge's ruling “marks a new chapter in Chrysler's storied history,” and he applauded Obama's auto task force for its role.

“These proceedings were able to move so swiftly because Chrysler, the president’s auto task force, autoworkers, majority debt holders and others worked so hard to set much of Chrysler’s restructuring in place before bankruptcy was filed,” Peters said. “In particular, sacrifices made by Chrysler’s workers, both white- and blue-collar, were instrumental in keeping Chrysler moving in the midst of the global credit crisis.”