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Senate Passes Extension of Cash for Clunkers’

The Senate passed legislation Thursday night that refuels the depleted “cash for clunkers— program with an additional $2 billion, approving the House-backed measure in a 60-37 vote just before leaving town for the August recess. A handful of amendments were voted down, thus avoiding a conference process that would have slowed the bill’s final approval, a fact that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) addressed passionately on the Senate floor. “We’re either going to have an extension of the cash for clunkers program with passage of the House bill without any changes in it, or it’s going to die,— he said. Levin went on: “If we leave here without adopting the House bill, it is the end of the most successful program that we’ve seen in the stimulus package.— The program, which was approved in June as part of the emergency war supplemental appropriations bill, offers $4,500 vouchers for car owners who trade in their vehicles for more fuel-efficient models. The $1 billion program quickly gained popularity after it was launched last week, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took to the airwaves this week to plead for Congress to extend the program, which was quickly running out of money. President Barack Obama hosted a luncheon with Democratic Senators at the White House earlier this week in part to urge the caucus to pass the House-backed measure.With the Senate’s action just before adjourning for the August break, the cash for clunkers measure now heads to the White House for Obama’s signature. It’s estimated that the extra $2 billion will sustain the program through Labor Day.

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