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Auto bailout clears House; bigger hurdle ahead

In the Senate, many Republicans resist $14 billion package, worried that the industry won't repay US loans or become more competitive.

Lawmakers returned to the floor of the House on Wednesday to vote on the $14 billion bailout for the nation's imperiled auto industry.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Citing the risk of massive job loss, the House voted Wednesday to loan US automakers $14 billion in return for a direct government hand in restructuring the ailing industry. But the biggest hurdle to clearing the bailout bill lies ahead in the US Senate, where the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and pass the bill are in doubt.

Although the legislation includes protections for taxpayers ­and the White House has signed off on it, many Senate Republicans say they're not convinced that the loans will be repaid or that the plan will produce a more viable domestic auto industry.

“People realize this is an incredibly weak bill. It’s the product of an administration that wants to kick the can down the road and let someone else deal with it, and it has minimal, very minimal, support in our caucus,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, after a GOP caucus meeting on the bailout on Wednesday.

While some Republican lawmakers insist that the bill produces too much government intervention in the economy, others caution that it may not provide enough.

“I’m really skeptical that the federal government can appoint somebody who can do a better job of running these businesses than the board of directors and the management of these car companies, but let’s say they can,” says Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas. “They still need to have the appropriate powers to restructure the companies in a way to make them competitive and viable in the long run. I don’t think that power and authority have been given.”


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