The White House and Democratic congressional leaders reached broad agreement on a $15-billion auto industry bailout measure Tuesday night, but continued to negotiate details as they aimed at their next challenge: persuading deeply suspicious members of Congress to go along with another government handout to big business.
A final deal could be announced as early as this morning after House and Senate negotiators agreed to Bush administration demands for tougher government oversight and expanded powers for the proposed “car czar,” according to White House and congressional aides.
The remaining stumbling block was a Democratic provision to force automakers that receive government money to stop funding lawsuits against California and more than a dozen other states to overturn tougher emission standards.
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Though supported by environmentalists, that provision was opposed by the White House, and its inclusion could alienate Republicans whose votes are needed to get the bill through the Senate.
Every vote is crucial. Many lawmakers, looking back on the $700-billion Wall Street rescue package they approved in October, wish they had imposed more restrictions on how those funds would be used. Now those regrets are making it harder to sell aid for Detroit.
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“There’s bailout fatigue right now,” said Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the second-ranking House Republican. “People are tired of ‘Give us the money and we’ll see what we need to do with it.’ I think that’s why . . . a lot more questions are being asked both by taxpayers and by members of the House and Senate.”