House Approves Auto Bailout

The House approved a $14 billion emergency loan package for U.S. automakers by a 237 to 170 margin Wednesday evening, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

The House voted 237-170 to approve the package, but in order for it to go through, it will have to pass in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans will have to vote for it.

As Republicans lashed out at specific elements of the package, the White House came out in its defense, saying in a statement today that the legislation developed with congressional Democrats to rescue automakers is an "effective and responsible approach" that will "ensure the necessary restructuring occurs."

pic of gop senators on capitol hill discussing auto industry bailout
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The White House promised to work with Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to aid automakers, despite mounting criticism from GOP senators, who said they will not support the plan as it stands. The legislation would provide low-interest loans within days to Chrysler and GM -- the two companies that say they need money now to stay afloat.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., condemned the White House's approach to provide money before the carmakers prove they have workable plans for restructuring.

"Isn't that, to use a common phrase, just ass backwards?" Vitter said earlier Wednesday. "Fifteen billion, and then later, after that's out the door, we'll see a detailed restructuring plan?"

A picture of a car being made on an assembly line.
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Others object to the idea that a government-appointed "car czar" would know how to fix the industry, and say the money will simply be wasted with no real changes being made.

"Americans are not stupid," said Sen. Jim Demint, R-S.C. "They know this bailout is only a temporary solution."

Even a Republican supporter in the Senate, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, expressed concern with the bill and said he would try to change it in debate on the Senate floor.

"While I am fighting to save Missouri auto jobs, Congress is just putting off the inevitable unless we force the companies to reform fundamentally, which this latest plan fails to do and is why I am offering changes to make it work," said Bond in a statement.

Votes Needed for Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that the bill could keep senators in town through the weekend.

"It seems very clear that the minority Republicans will not go forward until they have the time to study this," Reid said Wednesday morning.

This morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised "more substantive thoughts" after he had seen the bill.

Congressional leaders and the White House have cleared a major hurdle in crafting an agreement, but now comes the hard part.

"This gets us to the 20-yard line, but getting over the goal line will take a major effort," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Tuesday night. "We will need the personal involvement of President Bush and President-elect [Barack] Obama."

Indeed, the situation in the Senate is tricky. McConnell told ABC News Tuesday night that he's not sure the measure will pass and is, in fact, still undecided himself on how to vote. Some Democratic senators, too, could oppose the measure.

To get the 60 votes necessary to end the debate and vote for passage, the bill will likely need the support of at least a dozen Republicans, probably more.

"The public doesn't like it," McConnell said, "and in our line of work, that's important."

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