US Auto Bail-Out Steers Thru House but Senate Lights Could be Red

11 December 2008

WASHINGTON, DC: By 237 votes to 170, the House of Representatives, America's lower chamber, toed the White House line and greenlighted a $15 billion (€11.52bn; £10.11bn) bail-out for the US auto industry. Many politicos fear, however, that the lights will be at red when the rescue bill pulls up outside the Senate.

Says one of the bill's proponents, Senator George Voinovich (Republican, Ohio): "I don't think the votes are there," while his party colleague from Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby opined of the House vote: "This is only delaying [the automakers] funeral."

The bill not only has the support of outgoing President Bush but also of President-elect Obama. None of which is likely to cut much ice with a sizeable number of influential Republican senators.

This is despite the lobbying efforts to US Vice President Dick Cheney and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, who frantically wooed senior senators over their weekly lunch.

Their efforts didn't impress Senator Bob Corker (Republican, Tennessee) who commented: "They probably left with less support [than they came in with].There's less than a handful of votes in there."

The deal, if finally okayed, would see General Motors and Chrysler receive up to $15bn in loans. Ford, however, doesn't seek a loan but has asked for a $9bn credit line.

Whichever way the Senate votes, there's little doubt that America's once-impregnable Big Three carmakers are now drinking in the last chance saloon.

As Joel Kaplan, President Bush's deputy chief-of-staff told reporters Wednesday "It's a bill that will provide bridge financing to one of two possibilities. Fundamental restructuring or bankruptcy."

Data sourced from USA Today; additional content by WARC staff