House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have voiced their support for separating a cash-for-clunkers stimulus from a much bigger climate change bill that could take months to iron out.
"Cash-for-clunkers is really important. Every country in the world is selling less cars than they did before except one country: Germany. And in Germany they have a program for cash-for-clunkers. We need to do the same," Reid said. "The House is planning on putting it on their energy legislation. I'd like to do it sooner than that."
The cash-for-clunkers bill would offer consumers up to $4500 to trade in older vehicles that return 18 mpg or less. The White House, lawmakers and the auto industry all have voiced support for the measure. House Representative Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants to attach the bill to legislation that spans much more contentious issues, such as a cap and trade system for carbon emissions. That legislation could take months to complete.
Michigan members of Congress have urged lawmakers to split the cash-for-clunkers measure from Waxman's legislation so that it can be expedited.
"Obviously there is concern by automobile manufacturers that the longer that stays out there, the more inclined people would be to wait," Hoyer said. "We want to get them into the automobile purchase market, assuming they want a new vehicle, sooner rather than later."
In Germany, a similar cash-for-clunkers incentive has pushed car sales this year so far to levels not seen since 1999, a record year for new car sales in Germany. In April, Germans bought nearly 380,000 vehicles, up 19.4 percent compared with the same time period last year. The success in Germany has urged several other European countries to enact similar incentives, including France, Italy and, most recently, Spain.