Democratic leaders in Congress are urging Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to consider temporarily extending the $700 billion bailout package to struggling automakers, according to published media reports.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), the speaker of the House, and Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.), the Senate Majority Leader, made their case in a letter to Paulson, according to a report in

Reuters

.

"A healthy automobile manufacturing sector is essential to the restoration of financial market stability, the overall health of our economy and the livelihood of the automobile sector's workforce," Pelosi and Reid wrote, the report said.

The congressional leaders said that any extension of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to the automakers must protect taxpayers, the report added.

Pelosi and Reid met Thursday with the chiefs of the Big Three U.S. automakers, according to the report. On Friday,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

GM

(GM) - Get Report

reported multibillion-dollar losses for the third quarter and warned they're gushing cash.

The TARP legislation is aimed at stabilizing the financial markets, and so far the Bush administration has been reluctant to extend it to cover automakers,

The Wall Street Journal

noted.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.