Monday, November 13, 2006

A bit late, if you ask me...

Automakers to meet with Bush tomorrow

November 13, 2006

By JUSTIN HYDE

FREE PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Today, Michigan's Congressional Democrats urged Detroit's automakers to take a firmer line when they meet with President George W. Bush tomorrow on their top concerns, saying the administration needed to pay closer attention to Detroit's troubles.

The heads of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group will sit down with Bush about 1:15 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room for a 45-minute discussion whose topics will include health care, currency concerns and alternative energy. In addition to Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and economics adviser Al Hubbard will also attend.

While little action is expected to result directly from the meeting, Michigan's newly empowered Democrats say they hope the meeting will lead the administration to reassess its approach to the domestic auto industry.

"We want to see a change of attitude by this administration," said Rep. John Dingell, the Dearborn Democrat who will likely become chairman of the House's powerful Energy and Commerce committee next year, after a meeting Monday with representatives of the Detroit automakers.

As for the automakers, "they are going to have to be more forceful" in making their case to the administration, Dingell said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters Monday that Bush would "express his support for the American auto industry" and listen to their concerns.

Of the three main topics, currency could play the largest role, since Bush is scheduled to meet with Japan's prime minister later this week. The Detroit automakers contend Japan unfairly suppresses the value of the yen, boosting the profits Japanese automakers make in the United States and giving vehicles exported from Japan a price break.

"There's been an indifference here that needs to end," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak. "They make good cars. We need to make good policy."

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