GOP senators concede on 'Cash for Clunkers'
They don't have the votes to block an additional $2 billion for the popular program. Many have heard from car dealers back home.
With a jump-start from car dealers and consumers, prospects are brightening for quick Senate action on a $2 billion fill-up for the "Cash for Clunkers" program.Skip to next paragraph
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Senate Republicans Tuesday conceded that they do not have the votes to defeat the popular program, which offers rebates of up to $4,500 to help people buy new, more fuel-efficient cars or trucks. Nor are they inclined to force a procedural fight into the August recess, expected to begin Thursday evening or Friday.
“Not enough people oppose it because people love to get $4,500 falling out of the sky on top of them, and dealers love it,” says Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and a leading fiscal conservative. “But it’s an outrage to fiscal integrity of the system to create a program where our children and grandchildren will have to pay [at least] $4,500 for a car being bought today.”
Facing the prospect of a loss on this bill in the Senate, the Obama administration flooded the Senate with new data about the program, which raced through its initial $1 billion, four-month funding cap in a week.
Clunker trade-ins to date have produced a gain in fuel efficiency of 9.6 miles per gallon, or 61 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
That report, released Monday, won over Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California and Susan Collins (R) of Maine, who had threatened to vote against renewal of the program unless Congress wrote in higher fuel-efficiency standards.
Other Republicans reported hearing from local car dealers, who had already sold cars under the new federal rebate plan and were worried they would have to take the losses if the program folded.
“Many dealers are already into their fall promotions based on this program. We should honor the commitments we made,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina.