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Congress to appoint "car czar"
Congress' Democratic leaders plan to establish a "car czar" with sweeping powers to oversee the U.S. automakers' restructuring efforts.

The president would appoint the car czar or have the czar head a board of officials with financial expertise to supervise both short-term lending to Detroit's struggling automakers as well as their long-term efforts to become viable businesses. The provision is part of legislation introduced Monday that would provide automakers with up to $15 billion in emergency loans.

Any transaction valued at more than $25 million made by an automaker taking federal loans would be subject to the car czar's approval.

The cash-strapped automakers expressed no objection to the appointment of a car czar, and some executives said the companies might benefit from having an administration official who could bring pressure to bear on creditors and other stakeholders as they restructure.

The government has set up oversight boards in the past, for Chrysler Corp., the nation's airlines and other sectors that received federal aid.

Congressional leaders warned the automakers that any loans would be accompanied by strict conditions.

"Congressmen have read the polls and know that the public doesn't particularly favor this bailout," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "If the public is to accept it, it must be clear that the money is being well spent."

Under the terms of the bill, the car czar would have the power to disburse bridge loans to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC to keep them from collapsing. Detroit News

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