- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

President Bush has agreed to meet with executives of Detroit’s Big Three automakers after November’s elections, the White House announced yesterday.

“The White House has been in touch with all three, and we all agree it’s best to try to meet after the election because even the idea of a meeting has gotten way too mired down in politics,” said Dana Perino, the White House deputy press secretary.

The on-again-off-again meeting has become a huge issue in Michigan in the run-up to the elections, and Mr. Bush has been the subject of strong scolding from Republicans in the state for not having held a meeting with executives of Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for Michigan governor, said he saw a “continued refusal” on the part of the Bush administration to get a meeting done.

“The president needs to meet with the Big Three, and it must happen soon,” he told reporters last month.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to travel to Michigan on Friday to raise money at a closed-door reception for Mike Bouchard, the Republican candidate for Senate, and the issue of a Big Three meeting threatened to dominate his visit.

Before the White House announcement yesterday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, both Democrats, sent letters to Mr. Bush calling on him to use Friday’s visit to meet with the companies’ officials. Both women are running for re-election and facing stiff challenges from Republicans in a state where the economy is faltering, the unemployment rate is 7 percent, and companies are shedding jobs.

“I am sad to say that this is not the first time I have had to call on you to make time for the Big Three. My hope is that this trip to Michigan may finally spur you to some action on the matter,” Mrs. Stabenow wrote, while Mrs. Granholm offered to help arrange the meeting.

The automakers want to discuss U.S. trade policy and domestic issues such as costs of energy and pensions and health care plans.

Mrs. Perino said the White House had tried twice before to schedule a meeting, but the automakers had to cancel once, and the president had to cancel once because of travel.

Mr. Bush already has met with all three companies’ top executives individually.

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