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Senate rejects Big 3 bailout

Washington (AP) _While the Bush administration says it's ready to step in to avoid an auto industry collapse, several administration officials say nothing is imminent.  Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials suggest there's still time before General Motors and Chrysler run out of cash. Ford is considered to be in a stronger position.

The most obvious source of help is the $700 billion financial bailout fund. About $15 billion remains uncommitted from the first half of the fund. To begin tapping the second half, the administration would have to first notify Congress. Lawmakers could block it or put new conditions on how the money is used.

White House press secretary Dana Perino says the president "would prefer that markets determine the ultimate state of private firms'' under normal economic conditions. But she says allowing a "disorderly bankruptcy'' of one of the Big 3 automakers would further weaken the economy and prove "irresponsible.''

General Motors says it's "encouraged'' by the White House's willingness to consider other options.

Meanwhile, A key Republican negotiator on the failed auto rescue package is blaming the White House for undermining attempts to reach a deal.  Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker says the Bush administration undercut his negotiating power with the United Auto Workers by making clearthe auto industry would get an emergency lifeline even if talks in Congress collapsed.

Corker says that's what happened Thursday night. He says UAW negotiators felt there was no point in conceding the final point toward striking a deal because they believed the automakers would get money from the White House.

Corker told reporters on Friday that the deal probably fell through because the union knew "that the White House at the end of the day would probably blink.''

(Copyright 2008 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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