Senate to debate $25 billion auto bill Monday

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Struggling to keep alive a government bailout of the troubled auto industry, key supporters offered concessions Friday — including reducing its $25 billion size. The White House came out firmly against a Democratic plan to carve it out of a $700 billion rescue package for financial companies.

The measure gained important ground among Republicans on Capitol Hill, where at least a dozen to 15 GOP votes in the Senate will be needed to prevent opponents from blocking it in the Senate. The focal vote on that could occur as early as next Wednesday.

Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri became the second Republican to publicly voice support for the idea, joining Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. Both states have major auto plants. Several other GOP senators signaled they might accept a rescue for Detroit’s Big Three if it contained strict conditions for the beleaguered companies, including management and salary changes, concessions from their powerful unions, and a commitment to making more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Alan Reuther, the United Auto Workers union’s legislative director, said one option under consideration was a smaller, more targeted amount of funding "that would get the companies through to March." He said the union was "open to discussing various options like that. There’s a need for immediate action."


General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC have been clamoring for such aid as their industry is battered by the economic meltdown, which has choked off sales and frozen credit. GM has said it might not survive through year’s end without a government lifeline.

The White House’s rejection of using any of the $700 billion designated for the financial meltdown sets up what could be the last showdown between President George W. Bush and the Democratic Congress.

Democrats would have no problem passing the bill in the House, where they have a much larger majority than the narrow 50-49 one they will have in the Senate once Obama resigns on Sunday.

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