WASHINGTON House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for "emergency and limited financial assistance" for the battered auto industry on Tuesday, to be completed within days in a post-election session of Congress.
Five days after dismal financial reports from General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., Pelosi backed legislation to make the automakers eligible for help under the $700 billion bailout measure that cleared Congress in October.
In a written statement, the California Democrat said the aid was needed "in order to prevent the failure of one or more of the major American automobile manufacturers, which would have a devastating impact on our economy, particularly on the men and women who work in that industry."
"Congress and the Bush administration must take immediate action," she added.
The plight of the industry has drawn attention from the White House and the incoming Obama administration in recent days, as well as among lawmakers.
Last week, President-elect Obama prodded the Bush administration to do more to help the industry, and on Monday, he raised the issue with President Bush in an Oval Office conversation meant to underscore a smooth transition of power.
Officials familiar with the conversation said the president replied he was open to the idea.
Before adjourning for the elections, Congress passed legislation providing for $25 billion in government-backed loans to the automakers to prod them to retool their factories to make more efficient vehicles.
Since then, auto executives and officials in the United Autoworkers union have called for more than that to avert a possible collapse of one of the nation's most basic industries, including $50 million more to help cover future health care payments for about 780,000 retirees and their dependents.
GM and Ford reported last week that they spent down their cash reserves by a combined $14.6 billion in the past three months. Ford said it would slash more than 2,000 white collar jobs.
Pelosi's statement did not specify how large an aid package she prefers.