Detroit automaker CEOs, UAW head plead for help

Today, the Senate is expected to take up the bailout bill — along with an unemployment benefits extension — on the floor, though Republicans likely will signal their desire to subject the legislation to extended debate. That would probably result in a test vote on Friday to determine if the Democrats have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.

Wednesday in the House

Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was expected to take up the House version of the bill today with auto executives talking to that panel.

The House legislation is different, with 7-year loans, stricter oversight regulations and stock warrants worth at least 20% of the cost of the loans. That could mean the government could end up controlling a big portion of the automakers.

House members are in the nation's capital for organizational meetings this week, so it would be easy for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call them into session.

Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has auto plants in his state, said he had heard there was some Democratic support for using the retooling loans and that "hopefully Sen. Reid and I can discover a way forward."

Michigan's Democratic senators, too, said they were less concerned about where the money came from and more focused on getting aid before the end of the year. GM has said it needs immediate aid, and analysts estimate the company could run short of cash to pay its bills by January.

"If, in the short run, the only way we have is to take a portion of that (retooling loan), I would very reluctantly do that," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, "but only because President-elect Obama will be focused on retooling and a manufacturing strategy next year."

Said Levin: "If we can't get it done next week, we'll get it done the week after{hellip}How we get there is not as important as getting there."

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