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Democrats Give Detroit One More Shot at Bailout

Democratic leaders, conceding that their efforts to bail out America’s automakers stand no chance in Congress this week, are extending a final opportunity to the Big Three: Submit specific plans for getting the companies back on track and repaying the taxpayers, they offered, and Congress will return to Washington in December to consider legislation.

“We want them to come up with a proposal that we can get through here [Congress] on Dec. 8,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters in the Capitol Thursday afternoon.

The heads of Detroit’s automakers have made the rounds on Capitol Hill this week, but their efforts to secure $25 billion in emergency loans have hit a wall of Republican opposition. GOP critics, including the White House, remain unconvinced that the money would be used to rework the companies’ failing business models into viable strategies. Republicans also fear that the emergency loans would never be paid back.

Democrats said the companies’ plans — to be submitted to Congress in the first week of December — should focus on these two sticking points. “The key is accountability and viability,” Reid said. “That’s all we’re asking. It’s not too much.”

Senate and House Democrats have been somewhat at odds over where the funding would come from. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) has insisted that it be diverted from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan enacted last month. Meanwhile, key senators have floated the possibility of using an existing $25 billion earmarked to retool factories for the production of better cars.

Pelosi on Thursday deflected questions about the source of funding, saying she first wants to see the automakers’ plans. “We’re not talking today about what money will be used,” Pelosi said.

Maybe we’ll have that December session after all.

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