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Congress Sends White House Automaker Aid Proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional Democrats on Monday sent the
White House a draft of a roughly $15 billion auto bailout they aim
to bring to a vote this week, but White House officials gave a cool
initial response.
The measure would rush bridge loans to Detroit's struggling Big
Three but would also demand that the auto industry restructure
itself in order to survive and would put an overseer chosen by
President George W. Bush in charge of monitoring that effort,
according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press.
The White House had just begun evaluating the Democratic
language, according to officials who would comment on the
continuing negotiations only on condition of anonymity. But they
said the draft didn't appear consistent with the principles behind
a broad agreement to give long-term financing only to viable
companies. They said it was hard to tell definitively whether their
doubts were warranted and they would continue talking to Capitol
Hill representatives.
At the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said,
"While we take no satisfaction in loaning taxpayer money to these
companies, we know it must be done." He added, "This is no blank
check or blind hope."
Earlier Monday, the White House and a top Democratic lawmaker
said they were likely to strike a deal quickly on the
multibillion-dollar bailout, which places strict restrictions on
the automakers while they're receiving the loans and mandates that
the government overseer keep close tabs on their efforts to
restructure.
The emergency loans would be drawn from an existing program
meant to help the automakers build fuel-efficient vehicles.
Among the requirements included the draft proposal is one that
the carmakers getting federal help get rid of their corporate jets
- which became a potent symbol of the industry's ineptitude when
the Big Three CEOs used them for their initial trips to Washington
to plead before Congress for government aid.
The White House said the fundamental approach in the language
does not appear to meet Bush's main test: that long-term financing
with taxpayer dollars only be made available to companies with a
viable future in the marketplace. Bush officials believed
congressional negotiators were on board with this idea as well.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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