General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are arguing for their share of the rescue money provided by the American government as they continue to suffer the biggest losses in motoring history.
The Bush administration opposes their call for cash but a bill has been presented by the Democratic party to the country's Congress, which is also in transition following the landslide win by president-elect Barak Obama, to give them some short-term relief.
If any deal is approved - which seems a longshot - it will include a provision that none of the money can be used to pay executive bonuses.
These have been a multi-million dollar windfall for most senior executives at the Big Three for decades, but look to pass into history - at least until the river of red ink in Detroit is damed.
The proposal for the $25 billion assistance package has created a political furore in the USA, where one side of politics says the Big Three only have themselves to blame and the other is trying to protect jobs and even the pension and health insurance entitlements of retired workers.
A USA Today-Gallup poll shows the split, as a 47 per cent of adults said they believe loans and other help for carmakers is "not that important".
Meanwhile, everything from paperclips to concept cars has been culled as General Motors fights for survival.
The one-time world leader, which is now certain to be overtaken by Toyota on the 2008 sales charts, has slashed all non-essential spending and has even withdrawn from the Los Angeles Motor Show later this week.
GM was planning to unveil a new Buick concept car and something exciting for Saab, but has pulled both cars and also decided to keep its senior executives away from the California car show.
Ford and Chrysler are also expected to go low-key in LA, leaving import brands including Nissan and Mazda - which will reveal their all- new 370Z and Mazda3 - to make the running.
But it is the GM cutbacks which are making news in the USA, as the company - which is losing billions each month - reduces spending on everything from stationary to company cars. It has cut all executive bonuses and raised prices for executive lease cars.
GM has admitted it will run out of cash reserves by the end of the year.
Chrysler has also eliminated bonuses and is pushing e-mail to save on paper costs, while Ford is not having any Christmas parties in 2008 and has slashed all non-essential staff travel.