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White House Seeks More Cash for Clunkers’ Program

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday said the “cash for clunkers— program — which is nearly exhausted of funds — will continue to run at least through the weekend and that the administration is seeking money to extend it further.

“The administration and bipartisan leaders of Congress are working this morning to find and develop a way to continue to fund this program,— Gibbs said. He indicated an announcement of a deal to inject fresh financing could come Friday.

House leaders hope to vote this afternoon on a $2 billion infusion of cash for the program. The outlook in the Senate is unclear.

The program has proven wildly popular — the $1 billion allotted for it this year was drained much more quickly than expected.

Gibbs termed the program a “success— and said he was “confident— an agreement will be reached to continue the program. “This is a program that’s working well,— Gibbs asserted.

Some Republicans oppose a deal on the grounds that the government should not borrow more money and steer it to a particular industry.

“Cash for clunkers is another example of the government picking winners and losers and enshrines us as a bailout nation,— said GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. “You cannot bail out, borrow and spend your way to prosperity.—

Gibbs also pointed out that the latest revised gross domestic product figures show the recession was much worse than believed.

“The recession is about 50 percent worse for the first five quarters … than previously expected,— Gibbs said “We now know how much closer we were to the edge. We have a sense now that the recession was deeper than previously thought.—

Statistics released by the Commerce Department on Friday showed that the GDP in the second quarter contracted by 1 percent on an annual basis, a better performance than expected.

Gibbs pointed to steps the administration took to help right the economy. But he refrained from a victory dance, noting that Labor Department figures next week will probably show more jobs lost. President Barack Obama will deliver remarks on the economy early Friday afternoon from the White House.

The White House is on the defensive from Republicans who are charging that the stimulus bill backed by the administration was a waste of money. The GOP has also needled the White House for underestimating future unemployment when it was selling the stimulus bill to the public earlier this year.

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