Roundtable on the Auto Aid Package

Roundtable on the Auto Aid Package

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - December 10, 2008


SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I haven't been a big fan of the White House, as everyone knows, for the last eight years. But they have, in good faith, worked with us trying to get a piece of legislation that we can bring before this body. And that's one reason it's taken so long.

But President Bush is still the president of the United States and he has tremendous power.


HUME: Huh? I thought he was a lame duck with no power. Well, live and learn, I guess, huh?

That's Harry Reid, of course, talking about--the Democratic leader in the Senate, talking about the bailout automobile bridge loan bailout bill that is in the process of passing the House of Representatives and faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Charles, what about the president's role and what about the bill?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, this is the most active and important lame duck presidency in American history. Huge interventions in the markets, the signing of an agreement with Iraq of tremendous importance, the status of forces agreement, and now the intervention on the issue of the bailout.

I mean, this is a duck that roared, that people will remember historically.

For all the ridicule that the president has incurred from Barney Frank and others about his lack of leadership, he's leading here. And what he's doing on the auto issue is he's trying to enforce, essentially, a bankruptcy procedure of sorts.

What he is trying to do is to get the czar to have the automatic obligation to recall the loans if it's determined that the stakeholders in the auto crisis, the unions, the management, the dealers, and the bond holders aren't really taking a cut, a haircut.

If so, the loans are recalled, the companies collapse, they end up in Chapter 11, and a judge will do it.

And that, I think, Democrats had attempted to weaken that power of recalling the loan. But now it appears in the bill. It remains automatic.

HUME: And the czar would be named by?

KRAUTHAMMER: Bush, and retained by Obama.

LIASSON: Look, I think the president--this is the most consequential transition, certainly. Look at what has happened since Election Day. It is extraordinary.

But I do think the real test of his ability to still quack like a duck is if he can get those Republican senators who are currently holding up this auto deal to come into line.

HUME: But if they fail, it wouldn't be the worst outcome from Bush's perspective?

LIASSON: No, it wouldn't. But that would be a real test. If he wants this to pass, the problem right now is Republican senators, and we will see if he has clout with them.

HUME: Republican senators, a handful of them, say four or five, are talking about a filibuster, which would mean it would take 60 votes to end the filibuster. Cloture, as it's called--that's the measure to end the filibuster--has already been filed, I believe, by Harry Reid.

Jeff, what is your sense of where the votes are?

BIRNBAUM: Senator Voinovich of Ohio, who is in favor of the bridge loan, said earlier today that he doesn't think that there are enough votes to pass the bailout bill in the Senate.

HUME: Over a filibuster?

BIRNBAUM: Over a filibuster.

I'm not sure if he's right though. President Bush, I think, is roaring like a duck, to use Charles' phrase here, because he not only has shaped the bailout bill, but sent his chief of staff and also Vice President Cheney to the Hill to talk to Republican to try to change their mind and persuade them that not passing this bill could lead to a catastrophe.

The only other time that a bailout was not offered, in the case of Lehman brothers very early in this, when money was denied to Lehman Brothers to keep it afloat, that's what led to the collapse. And he wants to avoid.

And he sees that as an important part of his legacy here. And so I think that he may actually get enough votes to get this thing to pass.

HUME: Let's assume for the sake of argument that he doesn't.

It wouldn't be all that different from the czar that he will be naming finding, after a matter of weeks, really, that Detroit has not lived up to what the Congress expected of them in terms of changing everything, in terms of the stakeholders, as Charles described, taking the necessary haircuts an major changes being made.

That would lead to the very kind of outcome we would have if the thing failed, wouldn't it?

LIASSON: The outcome would be very similar, but I think it would make a huge amount of difference politically.


BIRNBAUM: That's right. It would be a huge political difference. And, also, it would be blood on the president's hands, basically, here.

I do think that even if it does fail once, it will pass a second time if it's brought up on Capitol Hill.

HUME: Before the end of the Bush presidency?

BIRNBAUM: Yes, in the same way that it took two times before the big $700 billion bailout passed.

And I think the president will once again prove that he is a factor in this by making sure that even at an initial failure will be retried.

HUME: Do you think it will pass in the end, Mara?

LIASSON: Yes, I do.

KRAUTHAMMER: Ironically, the Democrats are short one seat, Obama's in Illinois-it's vacant-in trying get to 60 if they want cloture.

HUME: Wow.

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