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House's race against time on 'Clunkers'

From NBC's Mike Viqueira, Kelly O'Donnell and Carl Sears
It's a race against time today for the House. They're set to go off on their way for recess once the gavel comes down at close of business, but they want to send the "Cash for Clunkers" program another $2 billion before they go.

Procedurally, they will need to get Republicans to go along, however. Early indications are that it might be possible, but conservatives are already on the record as opposing more money.

Video: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., discuses the House's plans to pass $2 billion to keep the "Cash for Clunkers" program running. Just a week after taking effect, the program has already run through the $1 billion allocated to it.

Today, White House Auto Czar Brian Dees was up on the Hill for a closed-door meeting of the Michigan delegation, where he gave assurances that the program would not be suspended and indicated that he wants the dealers to continue to submit applications for the credit.

The plan is to "reprogram" the money from a a renewable energy loan guarantee program in the stimulus that has funds yet to be used. The money would eventually be replenished, according to a House leadership aide.

We just saw Debbie Stabenow on MSNBC saying that she wants $4 billion more. The trouble with that is that once the House votes for $2 billion and leaves town, that's it. There's no changing it. The Senate is here for one more week and can take it up after this weekend.

Hill sources say at the Democratic caucus meeting this morning, House Majority leader Steny Hoyer told members, "We are working to get a unanimous consent vote to bring up 'Cash for Clunkers' today ... with $2 billion transferred from Recovery funds."  (That is the stimulus money.) 

If passed, sources say, the Senate could take it up next week in the final days before recess. Specifically aides say the "Clunker" program would be refueled with funds from what's known as "Title 17 renewable energy loan guarantees."  

The House would then work to replenish those dollars which advisors say have  "have been slow to move out." House leaders say, "Clunkers is a more urgent priority."

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod, while walking past Capitol Hill stakeout, responded to question about the program. "We're working that through," he said. "The program is going to continue."