An optimistic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning predicted a vote "tonight or tomorrow" on a bill to give emergency loans to ailing Detroit automakers.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Reid said two major issues remain between Democrats and White House negotiators and suggested that a workable solution is only a matter of hours away.
White House press secretary Dana Perino also commented on the measure's progress today, saying, "I think I would just say we're not quite closed down on everything yet, but we're certainly -- we certainly made a lot of good progress over the past several hours. I would characterize the conversations as cooperative in spirit. We're working fast, but we're also wanting to get it right."
Still, Reid's colleague Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a starkly different appraisal of the state of the bill, calling it a "deeply flawed" proposal.
McConnell, speaking just after Reid, ticked off several substantive problems he has with the Democratic proposal.
"In short, this proposal is deeply flawed because it fails to assure taxpayers - who rightly expect us to be good stewards of their hard-earned money - that they will not be asked to shell out billions more a few years or even a few months from now," McConnell said.
"This proposal does not go nearly far enough. It holds neither management nor labor truly accountable. And in areas where one side is held accountable, the other side isn't."
White House and congressional negotiators worked until late Monday night to try to resolve their differences on the bill. Congressional staff sent the White House their latest draft around midnight.
"Too early to say, nothing done yet," a senior White House official told ABC News this morning.
Staff for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "We're not that far apart."
Pelosi will speak later this afternoon on the status of the bill. Later this evening, House Democrats will go into a closed caucus meeting where, if there's a final bill drafted, Pelosi and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., will explain the bill and urge colleagues to support it.
A vote on the measure intended to keep America's major automakers in business through the winter could happen as early as Wednesday. It's unclear whether the House or Senate will vote on the bill first.
The draft bill, first sent to the White House Monday, would call on President Bush to select one or more people within the executive branch to authorize, disperse and oversee a loan for the auto industry. Congress and the White House have been hashing out a plan to give General Motors and Chrysler a total, short-term infusion of about $15 billion in low-interest loans to stay afloat in the months ahead.
GM CEO Rick Wagoner told lawmakers last week that without an infusion of $4 billion in taxpayer loans before the end of the year, the company would go bankrupt and have to be liquidated.
Ford has also requested loans but negotiators have determined the company will not receive funding at this point.
Meanwhile, despite Perino saying Monday morning that a deal was "very likely" by the end of the day, getting the key players to agree on the details of the measure remains tricky. Negotiators are working to iron out the oversight and conditions that would be imposed on the automakers.