WASHINGTON — Racing to seal a deal with the White House, Democratic congressional leaders dispatched aides Saturday to draft an emergency $15-billion aid package to pull Detroit's Big Three automakers from the brink of collapse.
Capitol Hill leaders prepared to sell yet another bailout to a skeptical Congress. It is an uphill battle: The anger is fresh over how the Bush administration used the $700-billion Wall Street rescue fund and lawmakers are questioning whether the once-mighty auto giants actually can survive.
Still, with Washington spooked by massive job losses that provided the latest evidence of a deepening recession, the White House said it was in "constructive discussions" with lawmakers in both parties on the assistance. House and Senate Democratic staff aides worked to hammer out details, with votes on the plan expected in the week ahead.
The emerging measure would speed short-term help to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, while empowering the government to order a wholesale restructuring of the industry and imposing tight restrictions on the Big Three, according to congressional officials and others close to the talks. They described the developing plan on the condition of anonymity because the details are not final.
It is designed to tide over the companies — particularly GM and Chrysler, which have warned they are just weeks from going bust — into March, when Barack Obama is president and a new Congress could consider a longer-term solution.
A breakthrough on the long-stalled rescue came Friday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, yielded to President Bush on a key point: allowing the aid to come from an existing fund set aside for the production of environmentally friendlier cars.