Levin: Auto Aid Plan To Look Like Past Deal

Sen. Carl Levin expects GM to get $8 billion and Chrysler $7 billion under the Bush administration's plan, and the Treasury secretary likely would become the 'car czar'.

DETROIT (AP) -- President George W. Bush's plan to aid impoverished U.S. automakers likely will follow the structure of a previous deal with congressional leaders, according to a Michigan senator.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin said Monday he expects Bush to abide by the earlier deal, which would provide loans for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to help them survive until March 31.

The House last week passed a $14 billion loan bill for the automakers that had Bush's blessing, but it was thwarted in the Senate after Republican leaders and the United Auto Workers couldn't agree on the timing of wage cuts.

"The president made a deal with the House of Representatives," Levin said at a news conference in Detroit. "Once the president makes a deal, he is not likely to walk away from it."

He said he expected the White House to announce terms of the plan by midweek, perhaps as early as Tuesday. He also said he expected GM would get $8 billion and Chrysler $7 billion -- the final $15 billion in the first installment of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

The House-passed bill includes a "car czar" to oversee restructuring of the companies to make sure they're viable. Levin said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would in effect become the czar, and his review of the automakers' finances may be holding up Bush's plan.

"I think he's probably satisfying himself about the books," Levin said, adding that Treasury looked at the companies' finances during the weekend and is continuing to do so. He said he's "confident they'll satisfy themselves those plans are based on solid numbers."

Levin said he's heard that the Bush package might be as large as $40 billion, possibly for the automakers' credit arms to free up loans for purchasers.

"It could be because the treasury could be looking at is not just the funds that were going to go to the operations side of the Big Three. ... On top of that they may be looking at what has always been known to be the need on the financial or the credit side for the Big Three," he said.

Treasury Department spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said no decisions have been made on what type of support to give the industry. Treasury officials are providing regular briefings to the White House, but she said there was no estimate on when a decision might be made.

"We continue to assess and review the information that we have received from the automakers," McLaughlin told reporters in Washington.

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