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Auto deal is close; key votes are next

WASHINGTON — A compromise pact to provide at least $15-billion in loans to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC could be unveiled within the next 24 hours, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin said Sunday.

"I think they're very close to a deal. I'm very confident there will be a deal, and that will happen within 24 hours," Levin said on Fox News Sunday.

What to do about the cash crisis facing Detroit's Big Three automakers, which have asked for as much as $34-billion in emergency loans, was the key topic of the nation's Sunday news shows. Levin said he expected the bill to be introduced in the next couple of days. The Senate is set to come back in session today, with the House planning to return Tuesday.

Any bill will likely need 60 votes to pass in the Senate, something Levin couldn't guarantee.

"That's a much more complicated question as to whether the votes are there," Levin said. "What I'm confident of is the bill will be introduced."

However, Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate banking, housing and urban affairs committee, said on CBS' Face the Nation that he thinks there are enough votes to pass the measure, even though leaders are displeased over the situation.

"None of us like this at all, and there's a lot of reasons to be furious," Dodd said, noting that more than 2-million auto-related jobs in the United States are at risk if the automakers fail. "But there's a lot more at stake than Detroit. If this was just about some company in Detroit, I'd let them fail in a New York minute."

Dodd also noted that GM chairman Rick Wagoner might be required to step down. "I think he has to move on," Dodd said, noting that GM was in the worst shape of the Big Three.

In response, GM spokesman Steve Harris said the company appreciates Dodd's support for the loans but added, "GM employees, dealers, suppliers and the GM board of directors feel strongly that Rick is the right guy to lead GM through this incredibly difficult and challenging time."

President-elect Obama accused auto executives of a persistent "head-in-the sand approach" to long-festering problems. In an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Obama said Congress was doing "the exact right thing" in drafting legislation that "holds the auto industry's feet to the fire" at the same time it tries to prevent its demise.

The White House and congressional Democrats have been working on a deal since Friday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., dropped her opposition to drawing money from an existing fund set aside to loan Detroit's automakers $25-billion over several years to retool plants. The bill is expected to include numerous conditions, including appointing an overseer to monitor the automakers' progress on their restructuring plans.

With GM asking for $12-billion and a $6-billion line of credit, Chrysler seeking $7-billion and Ford asking for a $9-billion line of credit, the deal will likely require automakers to prove progress by March 31 to receive any additional money.

Auto deal is close; key votes are next 12/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:38am]
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