Vote Could Be Imminent on Auto Bailout

Posted December 11, 2008 at 7:46pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said negotiators on an auto industry bailout bill are now waiting to see whether enough Senate Republicans will sign onto their proposal.

If that happens, Reid said the bill could still be voted on tonight.

On the floor at 8:30 p.m., Reid said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) – whose proposal is serving as the basis for negotiations – was presenting the deal that he helped broker to his fellow GOP Senators “as we speak” and that a resolution could be forthcoming in the next hour.

“I’m hopeful we can finish this matter tonight,” Reid said. “We should know soon.”

Corker’s original proposal would allow auto companies to get an immediate federal loan but would force them to reduce their debt by the end of March or file bankruptcy.

However, it appeared the main sticking point for Democrats was a proposal in the Corker plan that would require union workers to accept a pay cut to put their wages on par with those at foreign-owned companies.

Senate Republicans plan to meet at 8:45 p.m. to discuss the latest proposal. That meeting could prove key to passage of the compromise.

Some Democratic aides, however, cautioned that even if Republicans buy into Corker’s pitch, there are still unresolved issues that negotiators will need to hash out before a vote can occur.

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) told reporters late Thursday that the deal was not yet done. But he said they would keep talking “until we have an agreement or we reach a conclusion that one is not possible.“