Auto Package on Deck, but Details Sketchy

Posted December 5, 2008 at 2:31pm

The Senate is likely to first take up the auto industry rescue plan next week, but Members have yet to decide what that package will look like, according to several senior Democratic aides.

Few details have emerged on the lame-duck session, but Democratic leaders are mulling various scenarios for after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gavels in the Senate on Monday afternoon.

“We are working with [Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell to establish a process for the Senate to consider autos. We believe it is in all of our interest to get something done quickly,” one senior Democratic aide said.

Reid is negotiating with McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow the auto deal to overcome the cumbersome procedural rules and fast-track it to the floor.

If Senators can reach a deal on the auto bailout, Democrats are hopeful that Republicans and President George W. Bush also will be flexible on an economic stimulus package after rising unemployment numbers were announced this week.

According to one Democratic staffer, Reid might seek to pass a stimulus bill that includes funds for food stamps, Medicaid and infrastructure projects. Republicans are likely to object as they have questioned the economic benefit while the national debt balloons.

Executives from General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. met with Members of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Thursday. They are meeting with the House Financial Services Committee today.

After Thursday’s six-hour hearing, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of that committee, said he was planning on working on legislation that would help the Big Three auto companies.