The chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce promises action to ensure a $25 billion auto industry loan package is “delivered with all deliberate speed” after the U.S. Department of Energy balks at a presumptive January deadline.

“It appears that DOE is making excuses for its own anticipated failures,” Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) says in a written response to a DOE statement that casts suspicion over a suggestion from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) that the loans could be made available within the next four months.

Says the DOE statement: “We have significant doubts about whether distribution of loans by January 2009 is realistic. Because there are a number of legal and administrative requirements with which the Department must comply.”

A timeframe of six to 18 months is more reasonable, the DOE says.

Dingell promises “vigorous oversight to ensure (the DOE) performs its duties,” adding he hopes the statement “is not a sign of continued indifference to the U.S. auto industry on the part of the Bush Administration in its waning days.

“I would like to work cooperatively with the Administration to see to it that the loans are delivered with all deliberate speed,” Dingell adds.

Calls to Stabenow went unreturned.

The U.S. House approved the loan program Wednesday by a vote of 370-58. The program makes money available to help auto makers retool plants for the production of new fuel-efficient vehicles.