BREAKING: Cash for Clunkers Passed By Senate

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1994 Buick Park Avenue, by Flickr user Rienk Mebius

1994 Buick Park Avenue, by Flickr user Rienk Mebius

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All that's left now is for President Barack Obama to sign the bill. Late last night, the US Senate voted 91 to 5 to pass a $106 billion supplemental spending bill for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that includes $1 billion in "Cash for Clunkers" funding.

Earlier, the Senate had barely defeated an attempt by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) to remove the clunkers portion of the bill. The vote was 60 to 36, the bare minimum, and votes were largely aligned by party: Democrats for, Republicans against.

The president is expected to sign the bill within a week; it will take effect one month after that date. The $1 billion would pay for about three and a half months' worth of tax credits, through November 1.

The program would offer electronic vouchers of up to $4,500 to buyers of new cars that get mileage of at least 10 miles per gallon more than the vehicle traded in, which must have an EPA mileage rating of 18 mpg or less. The minimum voucher is $3,500, for a new car that gets at least 22 mpg.

New sport-utilities, pickup trucks, and minivans must get at least 2 mpg more than the vehicle being replaced, which must have been rated at 18 mpg or less, to get a $3,500 voucher. The difference must be at least 5 mpg to get the maximum $4,500 voucher.

Eligible ehicles were made between 1984 and 2001. Dealers must ensure that the engine and transmission are crushed or shredded but, mollifying car collector groups, the entire vehicle need not be destroyed. The voucher program will be run by the Transportation Department.

IS YOUR CAR ELIGIBLE? Check Edmunds' list of models considered to be clunkers.

The House had passed its bill, launched by Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH), 226 to 202 on June 9, more than a month after House members agreed on the terms of the bill. The House and Senate agreed on terms for a final bill within days; last night's vote came exactly one week later.

Advocates are likely to propose funding the remaining $3 billion of the program originally proposed. Some legislators favored a competing bill, with higher MPG requirements, from Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA).

The $1 billion of funding is expected to lead to the sale of 150,000 new cars, an aide for Rep. Sutton told Automobile News.  Unclear for now is how many of those sales would not have taken place without the tax credits.

The clunkers bill has been supported by automakers, most individual dealers, and the National Auto Dealers Association. Similar programs in Germany, France, and China have increased vehicle sales up to 30 percent.

Pile of junk cars

Pile of junk cars

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[Automotive News, subscription required; Detroit News; 1994 Buick Park Avenue photo by Flickr user Rienk Mebius]

 
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