Done Deal: Senate Passes $2 Billion Cash for Clunkers Lifeline
With the enormously popular cash for clunkers program soon to exhaust its $1 billion allotment, the Senate on Thursday passed legislation providing an additional $2 billion, which the lawmakers hope will see the program through the month.
The vote — 60 to 37 — came less than a week after the House approved the same proposal. Senate passage of an identical bill means that drivers can continue receiving between $3,500 and $4,500 to trash their gas guzzlers in favor of vehicles that get better mileage.
Seven amendments to the House proposal were offered on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, with Democratic leaders, behind Michigan’s influential delegation, successfully urging lawmakers to oppose each proposal, one by one. If any of the amendments had passed, then the entire bill would have required re-approval by House lawmakers, who left Washington last week for August recess. The delay would have left car dealers uncertain when (or if) the funding would arrive, likely stalling the cash for clunkers program altogether.
The impetus for Senate lawmakers to pass the House bill was clear: Though the environmental benefits of the program are slight, the initiative has been a boon to auto dealers and consumers alike. Few lawmakers wanted to return home for the August break to face an angry constituency.
Looking ahead, there are still questions about what would happen if the $2 billion runs out while Congress is on recess. And there remain concerns about how and when that money — which was siphoned from a loan program encouraging the development of green technologies — might be replaced.
But for now, most lawmakers are just breathing sighs of relief that the bill is passed, and vacation has arrived.
President Obama has promised to sign the bill into law as soon as it hits his desk.