House OKs bill cutting auto industry loans

          The House approved early this morning a stopgap bill to fund the government’s operations through Nov. 18 that also cuts $1.5 billion from an auto industry loan program.

       By a 219-203 vote, Republicans narrowly won enough support on a bill to fund the government for six weeks and provide $3.7 billion in disaster relief. Six Democrats voted for the bill, while 17 Republicans opposed it.

       The vote came after the House on Wednesday rejected a funding bill that also provided $3.7 billion in disaster relief by a 230-195 vote, as 48 Republicans voted with Democrats.

       Democrats sharply opposed that bill’s plan to cut $1.5 billion of the remaining $4 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program that guarantees up to $25 billion in loans to the auto industry.

       The bill passed today adds another $100 million in cuts from a separate Energy Department loan program that funds solar panel and green energy projects.

       The government will run out of money Sept. 30 unless Congress approves new spending. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday a government shutdown wouldn’t happen.

       Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, called the latest bill “dangerous mindlessness.”

       “When Americans need jobs the Republicans are pushing an anti-jobs bill,” he said.

       Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said the Senate should reject the bill.

       “The House should stay in session until we have a solution that doesn’t punish the American auto industry,” he said.

       Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called House Republican efforts to cut the auto loan program “mean-spirited,” as two major business groups voiced support for an Energy Department program providing billions in low-cost loans.

       Reid said late Thursday the Republican bill would not pass the Senate.

       “House Republicans should stop playing political games, and pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill without delay,” Reid said.
Republicans defended the cuts.

       “While families across America are being forced to pay for these horrible tragedies by cutting back in other areas, Washington too often refuses to make the same priorities,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said in an email to colleagues.

       The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers sent letters to Capitol Hill touting the auto industry loan program.

       The chamber opposed cuts to the vehicle manufacturing program, which had been suggested as a way to pay for an increase in federal disaster aid.

       Congress set aside $7.5 billion in 2008 to subsidize the $25 billion in auto industry loans.

       Democrats warned that cutting $1.5 billion from the program could scuttle at least 10 applications and cost more than 10,000 jobs.

       The program has awarded $9.2 billion in loans to six companies — including $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Co. and $1.4 billion to Nissan Motor Co. About 10 applications are in the final stages of approval — including a request by Chrysler Group LLC, which has sought about $3.5 billion.




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