Dodd: Auto bailout lacks GOP support

Senator says Democrats should reconsider legislation next week if it's going to fail. Aides to leaders say they will push ahead.

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Ted Barrett, CNN congressional producer

What should Congress do for U.S. automakers?
  • Lend them money
  • Do nothing
  • Lend them money but kick out current execs

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee said Thursday there is not enough support among Republicans to pass a proposed bailout package for the auto industry.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., suggested that Democrats should reconsider plans to push legislation during next week's congressional session if it's likely to fail.

"Right now I don't think [we have] the votes," he told reporters. "I don't know of a single Republican willing to support" it.

Dodd's assessment is significant because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate want to vote on a bill giving the Treasury Department authority to spend funds from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program, or TARP, on the auto industry.

It's unclear how much Republican opposition there is to the bill. One moderate GOP senator, George Voinovich of Ohio, announced Thursday he supports the proposal. But other Republicans strongly oppose it. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the banking committee, said the bailout would "reward mismanagement" in Detroit.

And even one Democrat, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, told CNN he was reluctant to allow the bailout funds to be used for the auto industry when the money has yet to be used to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

A GOP leadership aide disputed the notion that Republicans don't want to assist the auto industry and pointed to recent legislation, approved with GOP support, to provide $25 billion in loans to help the manufacturers retool their factories to make more fuel-efficient cars. That money is currently held up by red tape at the Department of Energy and Republicans say they support writing legislation to force its quick release.

Dodd also told reporters that the Treasury department "confirmed" to him that it already has authority to use the TARP funds for the auto industry. For that reason, Dodd said, Democrats should consider waiting for President-elect Obama to take office so Treasury can act without legislation.

Despite Dodd's assessment, Democratic leadership aides in the House and Senate said they were moving forward with plans for votes on the bill next week. To top of page

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