Wednesday 20th of November 2019

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Senate expects to vote this week on car-buying program

Americans hoping to get rid of that old clunker may still get another shot to do that as the majority leader of the U.S. Senate said he expected a $2 billion extension of the highly successful program to be approved.

After a meeting Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said there would be enough votes to pass the measure to extend the so-called “cash for clunkers” program before the week is done. The Senate is scheduled to begin its recess Friday.

Last Friday the U.S. House of Representatives gave its overwhelming approval to extending the program just before members recessed for their vacations.

There is no set schedule for the vote. Debate over the issue could push the vote to the end of the week. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader representing Kentucky, said it was possible that amendments to the measure could arise but an aide to Republican leaders said there was no expectation that enough votes could occur to change the bill.

The meeting between the Democrats and the president was called after White House officials warned the Senate would have to make a decision on extending the program or it would end. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday expressed his confidence the extension would occur.

If the measure endorsed by the House is altered by the Senate, a decision on any extension would have to wait until lawmakers return to Washington next month after taking time off for their annual summer vacations.

Under the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, rebates up to $4,500 depending on the vehicle are granted to anyone who trades in a vehicle made not more than 25 years from the trade-in date. In turn, the person buys a new model with higher fuel efficiency.

The program has been a plus for the auto industry. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that more than $450 million in federal vouchers covering about 160,000 vehicles are linked to the program. Congress had expected $1 billion of the program to last for some time, but it took only about a month to be depleted.

According to the government, Ford Motor Co. was the top performer in auto sales last month and seemed to beat rival companies in “clunker” sales. Smaller cars were favored over pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, the statistics said.

The highest sales for any state were reported in Michigan with $34.4 million in sales tied to the program. That state, home to U.S. automakers and many of their suppliers, has been hardest hit with lower vehicle sales this year.

As lawmakers wrestled with the measure, some auto dealers throughout the nation had put the brakes on making deals involving the rebates. Still, some dealers expressed confidence in Washington being able to come up with a solution by advancing the value of the rebate and waiting for later reimbursement from the government.