June 10, 2009 at 1:00 am

'Cash for clunkers' bill now up to Senate

Washington -- The auto industry and Michigan lawmakers are pushing for quick Senate action on "cash for clunkers" legislation to boost auto sales, after the House overwhelmingly passed such a bill Tuesday.

But it remains unclear when Senate supporters may overcome the objections of Senate appropriators and a group of senators who say the House proposal doesn't do enough to improve fuel efficiency on the nation's highways.

The House approved its version Tuesday, 298-199, with substantial Republican support despite the opposition of House leaders including Minority Leader John Boehner and whip Eric Cantor.

All 15 Michigan members, including seven Republicans, voted in favor.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced a nearly identical bill in the Senate, but had to withdraw an attempt to get a floor vote last week.

Opposition came from members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which objected to funding provisions of the bill, and from senators who want tougher fuel economy requirements.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a competing proposal on Monday.

Stabenow said Tuesday she's working with other senators to answer those concerns. One possibility is an idea House leaders are pursuing to attach an appropriation for the program to a wartime spending bill.

"Now it is time for the Senate to take action," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who co-authored the original House bill with Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, auto dealers and other groups also called for speedy Senate passage. President Barack Obama has also encouraged Congress to pass legislation.

The bill approved Tuesday would offer vouchers worth $3,500 or $4,500 to new-car buyers, depending on the mileage of their new vehicle. To be eligible, consumers would have to turn in a vehicle rated at 18 mpg or less for one rated at 22 mpg or greater. Pickups and business trucks would have different criteria.

gtrowbridge@detnews.com">gtrowbridge@detnews.com (202) 662-8738