News Midday Update: White House says auto deal is 'very likely'; prosecutors urge jury to sentence Atlanta courthouse gunman Nichols to death; gas prices continue steep decline in Ga.

The White House said Monday that it was "very likely" to reach a deal with Congress to help failing U.S. automakers but warned that Democratic lawmakers need to quickly provide their specific proposal.

"It sounds like we have agreement on those basic principles that would be required for a bill that the president could sign," White House press secretary Dana Perino told reporters.

Asked if the deal could happen as early as Monday, Perino said, "I think it's very likely." Yet, she said that if Congress expects to hold an initial vote on Tuesday, "it seems pretty soon if we haven't seen the language yet."

House and Senate aides were putting the finishing touches on a proposal that would draw emergency aid from an existing loan program meant to help the automakers build fuel-efficient vehicles. The size of the package hasn't been finalized, but it is expected to be between $14 billion and $17 billion.

It would create a presidentially named overseer charged with running a broad auto industry restructuring, with the power to require immediate payback of the emergency loans early next year if the companies fail to take the steps necessary to overhaul themselves. It could also include a Cabinet-level oversight board composed of the heads of the departments of Treasury, Energy, Labor, Commerce and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Congressional aides outlined the emerging measure on condition of anonymity because it is not yet completed.

Under the plan, the carmakers' could get emergency loans on Dec. 15. Then the presidentially tapped overseer - a kind of "car czar" - would write guidelines, due on the first of the year, for a Big Three restructuring. If the car companies hadn't taken enough steps to overhaul themselves by Feb. 15, 2009, the czar could recall the money.

Associated Press

Prosecutors urge jury to sentence Atlanta courthouse gunman Nichols to death

Prosecutors urged a jury Monday to sentence to death the man who killed a judge and three others in a shooting spree that began at the Fulton County Courthouse as closing arguments in the penalty phase of the Brian Nichols trial began.

Nichols was convicted Nov. 7 of killing a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent in the violence that began in downtown Atlanta in 2005. Defense attorneys say Nichols was gripped by a delusional compulsion that he was a slave rebelling against his masters.

The arguments are expected to last throughout much of the day. Superior Court Judge James Bodiford said the jury will begin deliberating on Tuesday whether to spare Nichols' life or sentence him to death.

Associated Press

Gas prices continue steep decline in Georgia

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says gasoline hasn't been this cheap since March 2004.

AAA Georgia said Monday the statewide average for regular was $1.64 a gallon. The national average for regular fuel was 3 cents a gallon higher.

The auto club said midgrade averaged $1.71 and premium was $1.84 a gallon.

Associated Press


- We'll tell you more about the case of a woman's body being found behind a Macon apartment complex this morning.


We invite you to check out our Web site again tomorrow for the Midday Update. Monday through Friday, Online Editor Beth MacFadyen will bring you timely information about what Telegraph staffers are working on, plus news we think you need to know immediately. Send feedback to