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Troy Clarke, President of GM North America. Clarke told a group of auto makers Wednesday that the next 100 days were critical for Washington's support of the auto industry. - 


Steve Chiotakis: Speaking of oil, American auto makers are burning it -- big time. It's a gaping hole punctured by abysmal sales that's sucking cold, hard, liquid cash, and they're looking to Congress and the White House for some relief.

They've already got $25 billion on the table from the Energy Department to finance more fuel efficient cars. They want a cash infusion to help with liquidity. And perhaps billions more to help finance a GM-Chrysler merger.

A lot of requests, and Marketplace's Steve Henn joins us now from Washington, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to meet with car executives and union officials. Steve, the Bush Administration already rejected the merger financing, saying it'll be up to the next administration, right?

Steve Henn: Well, that's right. And Obama has said he's interested in helping them. And I think what the auto industry executives and union members are hoping is that when Congress comes back two weeks from now on November 17, that any stimulus package will include more aid for their industry. But it's not clear that a bigger package would actually get through. Now the same members of who were here earlier in the year are still here, you know new members haven't been sworn in. And it might not get through the Senate, and a larger package might not be signed by the president.

Chiotakis: It sounds like a lot of variables, a lot of if's, and it sounds like the car makers are dancing right now.

Henn: They're dancing, and they're in trouble. And there's a lot of concern that the big auto makers could be running out of cash, especially by the end of the year. And they, you know, they need help and they're coming to Washington asking for help. They want to be a little careful about not alarming the markets too much, but last night, the North American president of GM told a group of auto makers that they were sort of facing a hundred very critical days to get Washington support, to get the new administration support for helping the industry, and that, you know, they really needed to make the case that letting, you know, letting one of the Big Three go, letting one of them fail, would be more expensive and more costly, both to the government and the economy, than helping them out right now.

Chiotakis: Marketplace's Steve Henn joining us from Washington. Steve, thanks.

Henn: Thank you.