Report: 'Car Czar' Proposed to Oversee Auto Bailout

A proposed government "car czar" would oversee any bailout of U.S. automakers under terms being negotiated by the White House and Congress for extending billions in emergency loans to the auto giants, Reuters reported.

Sources familiar with the plan for oversight by an official within the executive branch said Saturday conditions were not final as Democratic leaders and the White House tried to cut a deal.

One leadership aide said both sides favored creation of a "car czar" role to ensure proposed conditions were met, Reuters reported. The funds are designed to last until March, giving the incoming Obama administration and the new Congress time to consider the issue anew.

Racing to seal a deal with the White House, Democratic congressional leaders dispatched aides Saturday to draft an emergency $15 billion aid package to pull Detroit's Big Three automakers from the brink of collapse.

Capitol Hill leaders prepared to sell yet another bailout to a skeptical Congress. It is an uphill battle: The anger is fresh over how the Bush administration used the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund and lawmakers are questioning whether the once-mighty auto giants can survive.

Still, with Washington spooked by massive job losses that provided the latest evidence of a deepening recession, the White House said it was in "constructive discussions" with lawmakers in both parties on the assistance. House and Senate Democratic staff aides worked through the weekend to hammer out details, with votes on the plan expected in the week ahead.

The emerging measure would speed short-term help to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, while empowering the government to order a wholesale restructuring of the industry and imposing tight restrictions on the Big Three, according to congressional officials and others close to the talks. They described the developing plan on condition of anonymity because the details were not final.

Press secretary Dana Perino said automakers must show they are willing to make tough business decisions before they can get taxpayer money. She says the White House is insisting that any money come from an existing fund set aside for the production of environmentally friendlier cars.
The White House also wants to make sure that before any money goes out, there is a good chance taxpayers would get paid back.

Pelosi said the billions of dollars that had been set aside to modernize plants to develop the green cars would be repaid "within a matter of weeks." Democrats said her hope was to include the funds in an economic recovery bill that lawmakers are expected to prepare for President-elect Barack Obama's signature shortly after he takes office.

Top executives from the Detroit automakers spent two consecutive days on Capitol Hill pleading for $34 billion in loans to help the industry survive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.