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Top Senate Democrat: Auto bailout possible by tonight

Top Senate Democrat: Auto bailout possible by tonight

Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 10:05 pm
By: AP

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that Congress could act on an auto bailout as early as the end of the day. Reid, D-Nev., said a final agreement with the White House on help for Detroit’s Big Three could come “within an hour or so,” and hinges on only a couple of outstanding issues. He predicted the package could be finished by late tonight or tomorrow. The timing, Reid said, in part because lawmakers are still waiting on the White House to decide whether to request the second half of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund. “That decision has not been made yet,” he said. Congressional aides continued intense closed-door talks to resolve remaining disputes on the plan, which would speed $15 billion in emergency loans to struggling auto makers and place a presidentially named “car czar” in charge of overseeing a broad auto industry restructuring. The differences are few but significant. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was concerned that Democrats were proposing a package that isn’t tough enough on the carmakers and doesn’t force them to pay back the loans if they don’t take sufficient steps to ensure their own survival. The measure, McConnell said, “fails to require the kind of serious reform that will ensure long-term viability for struggling automobile companies.” The legislation gives the czar the option of revoking the money but doesn’t require that he do so. With that approach, “We open the door to unlimited federal subsidies in the future,” McConnell said. The White House has said it shares those concerns. White House press secretary Dana Perino said of the talks: “I think overall we’re headed in the right direction.” Perino said the long-term viability issue remains a sticking point. “There will not be long-term financing if they can’t prove long-term viability,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One as President George W. Bush headed to West Point, N.Y., for a speech. Perino said the White House and Congress have made a lot of progress. “We’re working fast. but we’re also wanting to get it right,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll have something finalized today. It’s possible.” The fast-paced developments come amid an environment of general economic instability, the Congress and the presidency both in transition, a ricocheting Wall Street and the Federal Reserve Board, Treasury and other agencies fighting to steady the reeling financial industry. Published in The Messenger 12.09.08

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