Senate approves $2 billion for 'cash for clunkers'

The Senate voted 60-37 Thursday night to approve $2 billion in additional funding to the popular “cash-for-clunkers” program that administration officials warned would run out of money this week.

The Senate voted around 8 p.m. and prepared to adjourn for a month-long August recess, setting up a busy September, when lawmakers will continue debate over healthcare reform and also take up controversial climate-change legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Senate leaves town without passing healthcare reform legislation, despite an August deadline set by President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama'Forever war' slogans short-circuit the scrutiny required of national security choices Which Democrat can beat Trump? Middle East scholars blame Trump for an Iran policy 40 years in the making MORE. Members of the Senate Finance Committee will continue to talk over August about legislation that would pay for an overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. They have set a Sept. 15 deadline for themselves.

A Democratic aide said the Senate may be in session Friday morning to approve nominations. Votes are not expected.

Senate Democrats unified Thursday evening to defeat five Republican-sponsored amendments that would have frozen funding for the cash-for-clunkers program until September. Any changes to the legislation, passed by the House last week, would have required agreement from the lower chamber, which is in recess until Sept. 8.

“This program gives a much-needed jolt to our economy and our manufacturers at a critical time,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again MORE (D-Nev.). “Retiring and recycling older, less-efficient cars and trucks and replacing them with higher fuel economy models reduces oil consumption and air pollution.”

The cash-for-clunkers bill survived a scare from an amendment offered by Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinWisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (D-Iowa) that would have limited vouchers to individuals earning less than $50,000 and couples earning under $75,000.

Republicans mobilized in support the amendment hoping that 10 or more Democrats would join them but Democratic leaders kept their ranks in line. The measured was tabled by a vote of 65-32.

The administration said Wednesday that most of the $1 billion initially allocated for the program had been spent to subsidize the purchase of 185,000 vehicles. Funds were scheduled to run out Friday.

Under the program, owners who trade in cars and trucks less than 25 years old that travel fewer than 18 miles per gallon of gas can receive vouchers for the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles. A fuel-economy improvement of four to 10 miles earns a $3,500 subsidy; an upgrade of more than 10 miles per gallon is worth $4,500.

The $2 billion extension, which the House passed by a vote of 316-109, appeared to face a tougher path in the Senate at the start of the week.

Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' re-election would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (R-Maine) said they would demand tougher mileage standards in exchange for supporting an extension. Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Mo.) wrote on her Twitter page that she would oppose the bill outright because: “We simply cannot afford any more taxpayr $ to extend cash for clunkers.”

Feinstein and Collins ended up voting for the bill. Seven Republicans in total cast “yes” votes.

Three Democrats opposed the legislation: McCaskill and Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (Vt.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).