WASHINGTON – The Senate reached a deal on saving the dwindling “cash for clunkers” program late Wednesday, agreeing to vote on a plan that would add $2 billion to the popular rebate program and give car shoppers until Labor Day to trade in their gas-guzzlers for a new ride.
Following lengthy negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats and Republicans had agreed to vote on the plan today, along with a series of potential changes to the bill, which was passed by the House last week.
Reid has said Democrats have enough votes to approve the measure and reject any changes that would cause an interruption in the rebates of up to $4,500.
Late Wednesday, it was not clear that any of the proposed amendments stood a chance of passing. Some of them included placing an income limit on those benefiting from the vouchers and requiring the government to sell off its stakes in General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
Any Senate changes to the bill would require another vote in the House, something that couldn’t take place until the House returns in September from a monthlong recess.
The government said Wednesday that more than $775 million of the $1 billion fund had been spent, accounting for nearly 185,000 new vehicles sold. President Barack Obama has said the program would go broke by Friday if not replenished by Congress.
Administration officials have estimated the additional $2 billion could fund another 500,000 vehicle sales and last into Labor Day.
That’s the same day the Senate was to follow the House into the August recess, a looming break that Senate leaders often use to prod their colleagues past standoffs.
The program offers car buyers rebates of between $3,500 and $4,500 for trading in their gas-guzzlers for new, higher-mileage models.
The new funding would triple the cost of the $1 billion rebate program and give as many as a half-million more Americans the chance to grab the new car incentives through September.
Car companies have credited the clunkers program with driving up sales in late July. Most consumers are buying smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles under the program, according to a list of the top 10-selling cars released Wednesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.