The political hot-potato nature of such a decision is making it tough to get a clear read on what will eventually happen, with all sides offering apparently contradictory messages. Just a little over two weeks remain until the end of the fiscal year, however, so something will have to give soon.
General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, for instance, appears to be avoiding a high-pressure position on securing the loans for the industry.
He is still believed to be working for the measure behind the scenes, but publicly is taking a soft stance, neglecting to mention the loans at a U.S. Senate energy summit today, reports Automotive News.
"We need a clear, long-term policy; consistency of direction; alignment of regulation; and a strong commitment from all sectors of American society to develop and implement the technologies that will allow us to achieve our mutual goals," Wagoner said. What he didn't say was that the industry would need billions of dollars in liquid funds to achieve those goals.
Conversely, many other carmakers see now as the time to push for the loans, as their chances may be rising with positive feedback from Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The loan-guarantee package is now reportedly one of several issues that are considered must-pass measures that will reach a decision before September 30th, which marks the end of the U.S. fiscal year.
The White House, however, has carefully kept its decision at arms length. Spokesman Tony Fratto said today that the White House is urging Congress to be "very, very careful about the government's role with private enterprise" and that an official stance on the matter has yet to be taken, reports The Detroit News.
A range of possible outcomes are on the table, with the auto industry seeking as much as $50 billion over three years. So far, however, the major car companies have set their sights on securing passage of a $25 billion loan package over a one year period for the current fiscal year. The rest can be sought later, when there is more time to work out the details.
The Energy Department is already working on regulations to govern the loan program, from amounts and repayment periods to how the loans will be awarded.