House OKs $14B auto bill, but bailout still in trouble



By The Associated Press

House passes auto bill

A $14 billion rescue package for the nation’s auto industry passed 237-170 in the House Wednesday night.

The bill will:

n Provide cash for General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC. and Ford Motor Co.

n Create a government “car czar,” who could give or take back loans next spring if carmakers don’t become viable

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n Require carmakers to submit blueprints on March 31 showing how they would restructure

n Allow the car czar to have veto power over any transaction of $100 million or more

Dems, Bush push bill

Democrats and the Bush administration hoped for a Senate vote and enactment by week’s end. They argued the loans authorized by the measure were needed to stave off disaster for the auto industry – and a further blow to the economy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House-passed bill represented “tough love” for U.S. auto companies and “giving a chance – this one more chance – to this great industry.”

Senate GOP opposes aid

Republicans were preparing a strong fight against the aid plan in the Senate.

House Republicans swiftly voiced their opposition and called for a plan that would instead provide government insurance to subsidize new private investment in the Big Three automakers, demand major labor givebacks and debt restructuring at the companies and encourage them to declare bankruptcy.

Bailout still in jeopardy

The measure faces a difficult road in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to advance. Rank-and-file Senate Republicans skewered the bill during a closed-door luncheon with White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, who was dispatched to Capitol Hill to make a case for the rescue package.

Behind the scenes, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders scrambled for a deal that would allow votes on the bill on Thursday.