Pelosi: "car czar" could be named this week, Volcker eyed

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) stands next to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-Ma) as she talks about the progress of the Detroit auto makers bailout package on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 8, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A presidentially appointed “car czar” to oversee the restructuring of struggling U.S. automakers could be named as soon as this week if Congress approves an industry bailout, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview aired on Tuesday.

Pelosi told NBC’s “Today Show” that she favored former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, recently appointed by President-elect Barack Obama as his top adviser on steering the economy out of recession, to oversee restructuring of the industry.

Democrats and the White House are negotiating a bailout package of up to $15 billion in loans to rescue the Detroit Three companies. The final plan must be approved by Congress.

General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC submitted business plans to Congress last week seeking a bailout.

In the interview taped on Monday, Pelosi said the “car czar,” who will chair a board charged with making sure the automakers retool, should be proactive rather than simply overseeing the bailout plan.

“I would want the czar to be appointed before one dollar was spent ... so theoretically this week,” she said.

“I think somebody like Paul Volcker, who has bipartisan confidence and the public and private confidence,” the Democratic leader said, when asked who she had in mind for the post.

Any appointment would be dependent on the bailout bill being passed by Congress this week.

Pelosi also said she expected the House to vote in the first week of January on a stimulus package to jolt the economy out of recession. Obama takes office on January 20.

Reporting by Ross Colvin, Editing by John Crawley and Jackie Frank