By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and KEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON (AP) — A House-passed bill to speed $14 billion in loans to Detroit's automakers stands on shaky ground in a bailout-weary Congress, undermined by Republican opposition that could derail the emergency aid in the Senate.
Republicans are challenging lame-duck President George W. Bush on the proposal, arguing that any support for the domestic auto industry should carry significant concessions from autoworkers and creditors and reject tougher environmental rules imposed by House Democrats.
The House approved the plan late Wednesday on a vote of 237-170. It would infuse money within days into cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. Ford Motor Co., which has said it has enough cash to make it through 2009, would also be eligible for federal aid.
Supporters cited dire warnings from GM and Chrysler executives, who have said they could run out of cash within weeks, and concerns that a carmaker collapse would erase tens of thousands of jobs and jolt an already bleak economy.
Democrats and the Bush White House hoped the Senate would vote on the legislation as early as Thursday. But based on concerns raised by GOP senators — and a still-uncertain level of support even among Democrats — they had a lot of work to do.A leading Senate Republican opponent said Thursday that he cannot back spending $14 billion of taxpayer money on a plan that would call for a restructuring of the industry, but which fails to detail just how that would be accomplished.
"I think that is putting the cart before the horse and isn't reponsible in terms of tax dollars," Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana said on CBS's "The Early Show."
The measure's murky outlook reflected the difficulty of approving another federal financial rescue on the heels of the deeply unpopular, $700 billion Wall Street bailout, as the clock ticks down on the current Congress and Bush's influence is at a low ebb.