Late this afternoon, the US House of Representatives passed the tax-credit legislation commonly known as the "Cash for Clunkers" bill by a vote of 298 to 119.

The House had reached agreement on terms for the legislation more than a month ago,  but the vote did not take place until today. The bill's main sponsor is Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH), who had introduced one of two competing House bills in April.

The bill provides vouchers for 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 been rated at 18 miles per gallon or less. The minimum voucher is $3,500, for a car that gets at least 22 mpg.

As for sport-utilities, minivans, and pickup trucks, the new model must get at least 2 mpg more than the old vehicle--which must also have been rated at 18 mpg or less--to qualify for the $3,500 voucher. The difference must be at least 5 mpg to get the $4,500 voucher.

Dealers will have to ensure that the old vehicles are crushed or shredded, a provision that has generated protests from car collector groups.

The vehicles to be traded in must have been made between 1984 and 2001. The bulk of tradeins, of course, are expected to be those with a used value less than the amount of the voucher. The total cost is projected at roughly $4 billion.

The bill has not yet been considered by the US Senate, which is its next step. A similar bill has been introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), which is supported by carmakers, their trade groups, the United Auto Workers, and elected officials from many Midwestern manufacturing states with Detroit Three plants in their districts.

If the Senate passes a different version of the bill, the language of the two bills must be reconciled in committee before the final provisions can take effect.

1985 Buick Century, Gross Polluter, by Flickr user head36

1985 Buick Century, Gross Polluter, by Flickr user head36