Democrats near deal on cash influx for automakers
AFP - Sunday, December 7
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Democrat lawmakers are near a deal with the White House to send a cash influx to the struggling auto industry and will vote on the 15-billion-dollar rescue plan next week, media reports said on Saturday.
Borrowing cash from a federally subsidized loan program to stimulate green auto technologies, the plan's short-term loans would sustain the industry until March, the Washington Post reported citing unnamed Congressional aides.
The New York Times said an agreement would also clear the way for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to request the remaining 350 billion dollars of the 700-billion-dollar financial industry bailout fund.
"Congress is considering various short term funding options for the American automobile industry," Democrat Nancy Pelosi said in a statement late Friday after leading US automakers pleaded for a government rescue.
Pelosi dropped her earlier opposition to tapping a 25-billion-dollar auto industry stimulus for fuel efficient cars but said any funds borrowed would have to be quickly repaid.
"We will not permit any funds to be borrowed from the advanced technology program unless there is a guarantee that those funds will be replenished in a matter of weeks so as not to delay that crucial initiative," she said.
The White House has locked horns with Congressional Democrats over how to avert collapse of the major automakers, but talks were ongoing late Friday and Saturday between the White House and lawmakers in the House and Senate, aides said.
The chiefs of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, which employ millions of American workers, spent Thursday and Friday lobbying lawmakers for a 34-billion-dollar bailout.
The release of government figures that showed a shock loss of 533,000 US jobs in November added urgency to the carmakers' appeal, and pressured lawmakers to break the impasse over how to finance a rescue plan.
"Today's announcement of major job losses and findings from Congressional hearings from the last two days make it clear that Congress must work on a bipartisan basis to provide short-term and limited assistance to the automobile industry while it undertakes major restructuring," Pelosi said.
In exchange, the auto companies will have to submit to strict government oversight to make sure that the bailout funds are used to carry out the reorganization plans they delivered to Congress this week.
Pelosi said she expected the House of Representatives would vote on the auto industry package next week.
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Ford vehicles at a dealership in Miami, Florida. Democrat lawmakers are near a deal with the White House to send a cash influx to the struggling auto industry and will vote on the $15bln rescue plan next week, media reports have said.
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