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Posted by on Aug 4, 2009 in Economy, Politics | 9 comments

Has Tide Shifted For Cash For Clunkers Senate Vote?

Has the tide shifted in the upcoming Senate vote for Cash For Clunkers? There are now rumblings that it has or, at the least, is starting to turn. Here’s one via Reuters:

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, told Reuters that the Senate may vote as early as Wednesday to approve a $2 billion extension of the popular cash-for-clunkers consumer rebate program to spur automobile sales.

Stabenow said she was “pretty optimistic” that the chamber would approve the additional funding for the program in a bill identical to that passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate is scheduled to recess on Friday for a month-long vacation.

The Senate vote will occur “maybe tomorrow,” Stabenow said in a brief interview.

And, indeed, Senate Majority Harry Reid is reportedly moving to put the issue to a vote this week.

Of course, the program could still wither on the Senate dithering vine.

But there has been a lot of behind the scenes pressure, the Detroit Free Press reports:

The push came as automakers began reporting July sales results showing a sizable boost from the program and touted its environmental benefits, with Ford Motor Co. saying the cars and trucks sold by the plan had 9 m.p.g. better fuel economy on average than the clunkers traded in.

As of midday today, there was no official word that the bill had been added to the Senate’s schedule this week, which was already full of debate over several bills and a scheduled vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. The Senate is scheduled to adjourn Friday for its August recess.

While the U.S. House moved in a matter of hours to shift $2 billion from a previously approved program into cash for clunkers, the Senate typically requires unanimous agreements to move bills that quickly. With several senators either vowing to object or raising questions about the program, it wasn’t clear how fast supporters might be able to move.

Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow were pressing their colleagues to get the bill moving. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Democrats were working with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to get the bill to the floor.

In a statement, McConnell tied the clunkers debacle to the health-care debate, saying the program was an example of the Obama administration’s “tendency to miss the mark on economic estimates….When the Administration comes bearing estimates, it’s not a bad idea to look for a second opinion,” he said. “All the more so if they say they’re in a hurry.”

The Senate (and Republicans) will be under an even broader kind of pressure: many news reports and editorials are saying the program has worked. In Ohio, Toledo WTOL’s Vice President and General Manager Bob Chirdon said this:

The Cash for Clunkers program did what it was supposed to do: It got shoppers into car showrooms and turned them into buyers.

The program is so successful that the $1 billion dollars allocated to fund it has already been spent. It may even be over budget given the time lag between selling the new car and getting the paperwork approved by the government.

Although I am not a fan of the government managing non-government functions, and I recognize that at its core this program is just moving tax money from one person to another, at least Cash for Clunkers worked. It is one of the few stimulus initiatives that actually stimulated something….

….Maybe Congress will do something else useful and move more of the unspent stimulus money into the Cash for Clunkers program

Given the overall press coverage and voices saying it should be renews, will the Senate (and GOPers) risk short-circuiting something that seems to be having a positive impact?

Here’s a Bloomberg report on a Senate shift on Cash for Clunkers:

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