WASHINGTON | President Donald Trump tested the limits of his presidential authority and political clout as he threatened Tuesday to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its proposed massive cutbacks in the U.S.
Trump unloaded on Twitter one day after GM announced it would close five plants and slash 14,000 jobs in North America. Many of the job cuts would impact the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth. It was the latest example of the president’s willingness to attempt to meddle in the affairs of private companies and to threaten the use of government power to try to force their business decisions.
“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland” while sparing plants in Mexico & China, Trump tweeted, adding: “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”
Trump’s tweets followed a short time after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House’s reaction to the automaker’s announcement was “a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger.” Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.
“Look, we made this deal, we’ve worked with you along the way, we’ve done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations,” Kudlow said, referencing the recently negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. “We’ve done this to help you and I think his disappointment is, it seems like that they kind of turned his back on him.”
The White House rebuke appears to fly in the face of long-held Republican opposition to picking winners and losers in the marketplace. A day earlier, Trump issued a vague threat to GM warning it to preserve a key plant in the presidential bellwether state of Ohio, where the company has marked its Lordstown plant for closure.
“That’s Ohio, and you better get back in there soon,” he said.
It’s not clear precisely what action against GM might be taken, or when, and there are questions about whether the president has the authority to act without congressional approval.
Buyers of electric vehicles made by GM and other automakers get federal tax credits of up to $7,500, helping to reduce the price as an incentive to get more of the zero-emissions vehicles on the road. But GM is on the cusp of reaching its subsidy limit.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not have any additional information on the president’s threat.