U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is urging Congress and the Bush administration to "find a way" to aid the battered U.S. auto companies.
He spoke on Friday after a 14-billion-dollar rescue plan failed to pass the Senate Thursday night. White House officials say they might help the auto industry by using some of the 700 billion dollars set aside to aid the banking industry. That is a major change for the Republican Bush administration, which has previously resisted requests from Democratic congressional leaders to use that fund.
Officials at the U.S. Treasury say they "stand ready" to prevent the failure of the automakers until Congress reconvenes to address the issue. General Motors and Chrysler have said they need about 14 billion dollars to keep operating. The Bush administration has said the failure of one of the major automakers could cost one million jobs at a time when the U.S. economy is already in recession.
A new economic report on Friday shows the auto industry's problems are affecting the U.S. economy, as declining car sales pushed overall retail sales down by one-point-eight percent in November. Retail sales are crucial because they drive about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.