The First Draft, Tuesday, Dec. 9

December 9, 2008

HONGKONG/

 

Tis the season to be, er, generous with taxpayers’ money.

The White House and Democrats in Congress are busy putting the finishing touches to a whopping $15 billion Christmas present for the U.S. auto industry. The two sides have been haggling for several days over the terms of the bailout to rescue the “Big Three” Detroit car manufacturers but are now reported to be close to agreement.

 House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC’s “Today” breakfast television show that if Congress approved the agreement a “car czar” charged with restructuring the industry could be appointed as soon as this week. She said she favored former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker for the post although he may already have his hands full — President-elect Barack Obama has named him as his senior adviser on jolting the economy out of recession.

 Obama has been critical of the Bush administration’s efforts to tackle the mortgage foreclosure crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their homes. The issue will be under the spotlight at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), when the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on the role of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the financial crisis.

 More gloomy housing data may come from the National Association of Realtors, which issues its Pending Home Sales Index for October and monthly Housing Forecast at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels to Panama City on Tuesday for a one-day meeting of foreign and commerce ministers that have negotiated free-trade deals with the United States. It will be attended by ministers from Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

 But the political meeting likely to grab the most media attention on Tuesday will be taking place in Chicago, where Obama is due to meet Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore to discuss energy and climate change.

Obama and Gore, who has indicated he is not interested in a position of climate “czar” or any cabinet post, will talk about how energy and climate policies can stimulate the economy and create jobs, a statement from Obama’s office said.

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