Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Congressional Democrats and the White House appear to have reached a deal on a $15 billion rescue plan for the auto industry, one that includes a ban on lawsuits challenging California’s greenhouse gas emission standards and a call for a “car czar” to oversee the rescue efforts.

“The terms of any financial assistance under this Act shall prohibit the eligible automobile manufacturer from participating in, pursuing, funding, or supporting in any way, any legal challenge (existing or contemplated) to State laws concerning greenhouse gas emission standards,” says the document.

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The bill also calls for the creation of a “car czar” who would have “appropriate expertise in such areas as economic stabilization, financial aid to commerce and industry, financial restructuring, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.” This individual, appointed by the president, would be granted access to all the financial accounts, records, and other data from the auto companies. The companies would have to receive the czar’s approval for business transactions worth $25 million or more. Since the plan calls for a czar to be in place by Jan. 1, the individual would be appointed by President Bush.

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They nixed plans to create an oversight board for the industry made up of cabinet secretaries from Commerce, Energy, Labor, Transportation, and the Treasury, as well as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In this draft bill, Democrats have agreed to allow $15 billion in loan guarantees for manufacture of advanced technology vehicles — a provision included in the 2007 energy bill — to be used in the bailout. These emergency bridge loans would be distributed to General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. Those funds are supposed to get the industry through until March 31, 2009.

“It may take more than $15 billion to get to March 31. But come March 31, it is our hope that there will be a viable automotive industry in our country with transparency and accountability to the taxpayer. We think that is possible,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this afternoon. “But if they don’t meet the conditions of restructuring, there is not going to be an endless flow of money to this industry, left to their own devices and the practices they have engaged in.”

Via Ambinder, here’s a draft of the bailout bill currently circulating the Hill.

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