Democrats leaders are preparing for a press conference announcing legislation they began circulating this afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is predicting passage within the next few days. A source familiar with the thinking in the Bush administration, however, says the administration has not signed off on the bill and support from Congressional Republicans may be weak.
Here are the reported features of the bill.
- It’s a pretty short document. The current draft runs only 23-pages. Expect it to grow as lawmakers pile on with amendments.
- Creates a car czar. The Democrats had wanted an oversight board that may have included representatives from environmental and labour interests. This has been set aside in favour of a singular overseer who would be charged with disbursing the emergency funds, putting together a reorganization plan and supervising its implementation.
- A quick reorganization plan. The bill requires that Car Czar to develop benchmarks by January 1, 2009 for the automakers to meet. This seems unduly quick. After months of intense discussion—and years of criticism of the automakers—requiring a new plan to be in place in the next three weeks is probably foolish. A major reorganization plan must be in place by March 31. Is one quarter long enough to get concessions from both bond holders and labour unions?
- Diverting funds from green tech. The $15 billion in loans will come, for the most part, from prior appropriations ear-marked to for the production of energy efficient cars.
- In a concession to environmentalists, automakers will be prohibitted from pursuing lawsuits against California’s emissions standards.