With the federal "cash for clunkers" program running out of gas, the Senate is expected to vote this week on a $2 billion boost that could prevent the government from pulling the plug on the popular program as early as tomorrow.
The program, which gives consumers up to $4,500 in credit for trading in their old cars for more fuel-efficient ones, has already exhausted its current $1 billion funding and needs Senate approval to continue, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said in a recent C-Span interview.
"We're going to work very hard with the Senate on this," LaHood said. "Our commitment is to make sure that car buyers and dealers are reimbursed."
Last Friday, the House approved in a 316-to-109 vote the additional $2 billion in funding, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill before it goes on its August recess.
But some Republican senators plan to block the Senate from extending the program this week.
"This is crazy to try to rush this thing through again while they're trying to rush through healthcare," said Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican. "We've got to slow this thing down."
DeMint says he opposes the program because it's "helping auto dealers while there are thousands of other small businesses that aren't getting help."
Among the program's dissenters is Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who is expected to lead a filibuster against the bill to give the program more money. McCain's spokeswoman said last week that the senator opposed the program from the start because of the cost to taxpayers.
Monthly auto sales reports expected to be released today will show how effective the program has been in fueling the auto industry. Ford said sales jumped 2.3 percent in July, its first monthly increase since November 2007.
- Read more about Cash for Clunkers.