Cash for Clunkers Update: Congress May Triple Funding, Extend Through 2010

cash-for-clunkers-cars-logo UPDATED So much for the estimate that the government’s cash for clunkers coffers would last for four months — they’re just about empty after less than a week. When Congress allocated nearly a billion dollars for the program, which provides vouchers to help drivers pay for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles when they trade in gas guzzlers, it said the program would run until all the money was spent, or on November 1 of this year. Whoops.

This morning, with more than 250,000 guzzlers having come in for the $3,500-$4,500 vouchers, Democratic leaders in the House are fast-tracking a bill to add $2 billion to the program and extend it through the end of September 2010, Politico reports.

Some folks on Capitol Hill aren’t too thrilled with this idea (Politico has a great quote from Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas protesting the bill as picking winners in the auto industry, when the struggling poultry industry isn’t getting a “cash for cluckers” program). Word from policymakers yesterday that the program would have to be suspended unless it gets more cash, however, didn’t go down too well with thousands of dealers and car buyers who have already made deals expecting vouchers to come through. Still, the legislation could go through relatively smoothly because the bill would just move money around between different areas of the stimulus package, rather than allocating new dollars — and because legislators want to get off the Hill for their scheduled month off. More when we know more.

Update: That was fast. The House has just approved a transfer of $2 billion in stimulus funds to the cash for clunkers program, with a vote of 316-109. Next the bill goes to the Senate, where it will be considered next week.

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