December 9th, 2008
10:27 PM ET

Democrats & White House – Step on the gas

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/12/09/auto.bailout/art.cars.gi.jpg caption="A key concern is how the bill can ensure that taxpayers are repaid for loans to Chrysler."]

Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh
CNN Capitol Hill producers

A late meeting on Capitol Hill of congressional Democratic staff and staff from the White House on the auto loans broke up a few minutes ago with two senior Senate Democratic aides involved in the talks reporting progress on several key issues but not a done deal yet.

The two key remaining issues to be resolved involve whether to block the auto companies from suing states over their greenhouse gas emission standards and how the bill can ensure taxpayers can get repaid for loans to Chrysler, a privately held company, in the event the company goes bankrupt. Congressional Democrats want to add language they can reach up to the holding company, Cerberus Capital Management, if that happens, but the White House is “pushing back” according to one Democratic aide.

The talks did resolve two sticking points. One dealt with a provision that any expenditure by the three companies over $25 million would have to have to get prior government approval. To satisfy some Republicans who considered the requirement too cumbersome, the dollar amount was raised to $100 million.

The other change involved language to ensure the government would revoke the loans if the companies weren’t restructuring in a way the government found satisfactory. The legislative text was changed to say in the event that happens the government “shall” revoke the loans from “could” revoke them.

“The hammer is the loans get called,” said one of the aides.

More talks were possible late night Tuesday after the latest draft of the bill was circulated to key lawmakers, one of the aides said.

Both the House and Senate were prepared to take up the legislation as early as Wednesday but a decision hasn’t been made about which chamber will vote first.

In the Senate, a group of fiscally conservative Republicans were set to announce Wednesday they would try filibuster the bill. However, it is not clear if the handful of senators can block the bill although they should be able to drag out final passage through the weekend.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Bailout Turmoil • Deirdre Walsh • Raw Politics • Ted Barrett
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