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“I refuse to let these companies become permanent wards of the state, kept afloat on a permanent supply of taxpayer money,” he said.

But Chris Chocola, a former congressman and president of the free-market conservative advocacy group Club for Growth, said his former colleagues at the Capitol can’t resist meddling with decisions about what plants to close or where to locate production facilities.

“I don’t think there’s really any way Congress can divorce the politics from this, and that’s a danger,” he said. He compared it to base closings, during which members of Congress finally had to take the decisions out of their own hands in order to end the politicking that accompanied the tough decisions.

“That’s the danger here is every politician here that has a GM or Chrysler plant in their district is going to scream you can’t close the one in my district,” he said.

Mr. Chocola also said no matter what the government does, lawmakers and officials from Mr. Obama down will be blamed for the company’s decisions, which means “ever-increasing opportunities to tick people off.”

The government also could find itself clashing with the car companies over environmental issues. The Obama administration has enlisted the bailed-out automakers to support its plan for emissions and federal fuel-efficiency standards. The car companies and state lawmakers had been battling over emission standards for years.

The Workplace Fairness Institute, an outside group that is battling a union-sought bill that would make it easier to form unions and create binding arbitration between companies and unions, said the GM deal is an example of what happens when the government forces a deal between businesses and unions.

“The common thread throughout all these stories is that the workers suffer,” said Katie Packer, executive director of the institute.

Republicans from states with auto-manufacturing plants promised to try to secure government assistance for workers and said they hoped bankruptcy would work to GM’s advantage.

In announcing the moves, Mr. Obama sought to extend blame to previous administrations. He said his government “inherited a financial crisis unlike any that we’ve seen in our time” and therefore the government has had to take controlling stakes in private companies.

He said the “survival” of the U.S. economy depended on the move. It was the same argument the Bush administration made last year as it urged a congressional bailout of GM and pressured Congress to pass the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

Still, speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, former Vice President Dick Cheney said Mr. Obama’s new moves were worrisome.

“I see the government stepping in, and they’re supposedly going to preside over a Chapter 11 process here. We’ll see how that works. But I do not like the precedent that we’re setting here in terms of when you get a corporation that big that the government of the United States steps in, takes over, and begins to operate it and to make judgments that I think are best left to the private sector,” Mr. Cheney said.

• Jon Ward contributed to this report.