House Democrats fighting to save $1.5 billion worth of federal funding for energy-efficient cars have found a powerful business ally: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As part of a spending bill the House defeated on Wednesday, Republican members wanted to take $1.5 billion from the Energy Department’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan-guarantee program to pay for more funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In letters to lawmakers on Thursday, the business group’s top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, called for retaining the loan-guarantee program’s funding levels. The program will provide “new opportunities for American workers in a sector of the economy that is critical to the nation’s recovery,” he wrote.
The letters add momentum to House Democrats’ efforts to keep the program’s funding intact. Reps. Anna Eshoo of California and Gary Peters of Michigan rallied more than 100 of their colleagues to sign a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, opposing the cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other top Senate Democrats are urging House Republicans to support their version of a spending bill, which would not strip the funding from the Energy Department’s program. Congress needs to pass a spending bill by Sept. 30 to keep the government running.
House GOP leaders on Thursday were considering whether to try again to pass their bill, with the hope of winning over a block of the 48 Republicans, who opposed the measure on other grounds--or altering or eliminating the $1.5 billion energy-efficient cars program "pay-for" provision in what would be a concession to Democrats.
Reid said that Democrats would consider the bill if Republicans remove the mention of taking funds from the energy-efficient-cars program.
Dan Friedman contributed