Washington, D.C. – A controversial bill that would give Americans vouchers of up to US$4,500 on a new vehicle when they trade in their old ones for fuel-efficient replacements has passed the U.S. Senate.

Republicans in the Senate failed to remove the US$1 billion provision from a $106 billion war funding bill, and the measure was retained by a vote of 60 to 36.  Should the bill pass a final Senate vote, it will be forwarded to the White House to be signed into law. Final adoption of the program by Congress is expected to take place next week.

Critics say that the program is too expensive and might not do much to boost sales or help the environment, while proponents say that it could help stimulate sales of one million new vehicles and position the U.S. to become less dependent on foreign oil.

Several countries have similar schemes, including Germany, which recorded a 39.7 per cent rise in new vehicle sales attributed to the fleet renewal scheme.

The U.S. program would allow consumers to trade in their old vehicles for a voucher, worth $3,500 to $4,500, when buying a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

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