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Reaction to Obama's auto speech

From NBC's Athena Jones, Ken Strickland, and Mark Murray
President Obama's
speech on the U.S. automakers received a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid commended Obama for what he called "firm resolve" when it comes to dealing with automakers.

"The Administration's decision to send GM and Chrysler back to the drawing board was driven by three critical and commendable goals: protecting taxpayers' investment, moving America more quickly toward energy independence, and ensuring these two companies and the American auto industry as a whole can survive and as many workers as possible can keep their jobs," he said in a statement. "As we have maintained since the earliest days of this crisis, if these companies do not develop strong plans to remain viable in the long term, they will lose our support."

On the Republican side, Rep. Darrell Issa, a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, praised Obama's announcement saying he had "struck the right chord in seeking balance between supporting the American auto industry and calling for a much-needed restructuring of GM and Chrysler."

But the response was not all positive. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement arguing that Republicans had long been pushing for reform in the auto industry.

"Republicans in Congress called for true reform before bailouts last year; automakers were given billions instead," McConnell's statement read in part. "Republicans said that taxpayer money set aside to strengthen the economy by preserving the flow of credit shouldn't be used for bailouts of individual businesses and unions; it was doled out anyway. And Republicans called for an end to funding enterprises that refused to demand reform from management, labor and investors; each refused."

McConnell ended by saying Republicans agreed with the notion that reforms must "be taken seriously or the taxpayer bailouts will end" but that that should have happened "tens of billions of dollars ago."

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee who took part in negotiations on legislation to help U.S. automakers in December, said Wagoner firing was a "sideshow" meant to distract people from what he called the lack of progress made since aid first went to automakers last year and cast the administration's moves as a "major power grab" and a threat to free enterprise.

"With sweeping new power the White House will be deciding which plants will survive and which won't, so in essence, this administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free market process how to deal with these companies," Corker said in a statement.

And on the Senate floor, John McCain called the Administration's removal of GM CEO Richard Wagoner "remarkable" and "unprecedented," and suggested it would have a chilling effect of other corporations. "So instead of sending General Motors and Chrysler into the pre-packaged bankruptcy they deserve, now have taken the unprecedented step of firing the CEO of General Motors," he said. "A remarkable move by the federal government. I think unprecedented in the history of this country."

"What does this signal send to other corporations, financial institutions about whether the federal government will decide to fire them as well."