Reuters is reporting Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress expressed the intent to make it possible for beleaguered U.S.-based auto companies to access at least US$25 billion in low-interest loans, a priority for industry facing tougher requirements for fuel efficient vehicles. “It’s very important to our country,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters about credit assistance aimed mainly at helping General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Corp. and Chrysler retool factories and spark more investment in battery research. Domestic manufacturers, whose core sport utility and truck business has collapsed amid record high fuel prices and a sluggish economy, lag behind Japanese and other overseas competitors in making gasoline/electric hybrids and other fuel efficient cars that consumers are now demanding. Pelosi, a California Democrat, and her chief deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, could not say whether funding legislation needed to trigger the loans could be approved before Congress is scheduled to leave town at the end of the month — possibly for the rest of the year. Senate allies of automakers also said the matter was being discussed, but no decision has been made on how to get any measure through that chamber with time working against them. “It will certainly be part of something that is moving. Given the three-week time frame its highly unlikely that it will be a separate piece of legislation,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat. Sen. George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, said lawmakers are evaluating all aspects, but “it’s all brand new.” The White House is watching the matter closely, but has said little publicly. It has previously urged the auto industry to shore up its own finances and has adamantly opposed any bailouts.