Senate will tackle auto industry bailout Monday

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats will take up a bill to extend $25 billion in emergency loans to the auto industry on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans a test vote two days later.

Meanwhile, supporters scrambled Friday for Republican votes needed to break an expected filibuster by opponents.

Supporters expect to need between a dozen and 15 GOP votes to attach the measure to a $6 billion bill the House passed in October that would extend unemployment benefits. So far, however, they have only one firm commitment, from Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, a state with several auto plants and manufacturers of auto supplies.

Democratic lawmakers have been working out details of a $25 billion aid measure even as top Republicans warned they weren't yet willing to back the plan.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who favors the aid, told reporters he didn't "know of a single Republican who's willing to support" the legislation and he would hesitate to bring up a bill that could fail.

Underscoring his concerns, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, a state with a sizable auto sector, said providing billions of dollars without major reform of the auto industry "is neither fair to taxpayers nor sound fiscal policy."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose state also has a big auto workforce, also was cool to the Democratic bill. Don Stewart, McConnell's communications director, noted that Congress had already approved $25 billion in low-interest loans this year to help automakers' projects to retool for more fuel-efficient cars and suggested that package be revamped to better help automakers meet immediate liquidity needs. None of that money has gone out yet. The White House has made similar suggestions.

The debate comes as General Motors gm, Ford Motor f and privately held Chrysler are losing billions of dollars each quarter, burning though cash faster than anemic sales can replace it. They could run out of money early next year without federal aid.

Industry officials are lobbying feverishly for aid. They argue that because the Detroit 3 share the same pool of suppliers, a bankruptcy by any one will cripple the others.

Shelly Lombard, an analyst at Gimme Credit, predicts GM sales would dry up if it filed for bankruptcy court protection. "For GM, bankruptcy could turn into a roach motel — the company goes in, but doesn't come out," she wrote in a research note.

Adding to other concerns, supporters are running into bailout fatigue on Capitol Hill. Many voters still are angry over the $700 billion financial sector rescue in October.

Reid said Democrats will press ahead, but cautioned they need the support of Republicans. Other Democratic senators, such as Charles Schumer of New York, said they were hopeful needed votes would emerge. And Dodd said that even if a bailout is not passed now, it could be revived in January, after the new Congress and administration take office.