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Senate Housing Bill
Friday, 11 July 2008

Senate Housing Bill Still Not Put to a Vote
The Senate failed to pass a huge housing package on Thursday, continuing a legislative process that has been repeatedly bogged down by procedural hurdles, even as the housing market worsens. The multifaceted bill, likely Congress's biggest response to the housing mess, would revamp oversight of the struggling mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a measure that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said is vital to restore confidence in the U.S. housing market. The bill would also allow the government to insure up to $300 billion in refinanced mortgages, which Democrats say could help up to 500,000 people avoid foreclosure.

Senate Housing Bill Still Not Put to a Vote

By DAMIAN PALETTA and MICHAEL R. CRITTENDEN
July 11, 2008;

WASHINGTON -- The Senate failed to pass a huge housing package on Thursday, continuing a legislative process that has been repeatedly bogged down by procedural hurdles, even as the housing market worsens.

The multifaceted bill, likely Congress's biggest response to the housing mess, would revamp oversight of the struggling mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a measure that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said is vital to restore confidence in the U.S. housing market. The bill would also allow the government to insure up to $300 billion in refinanced mortgages, which Democrats say could help up to 500,000 people avoid foreclosure.

A final vote could still occur Friday, but other attempts to pass the bill have slipped during the past two weeks. The holdup Thursday was an objection to the legislation by Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), who has called the package a "bailout" and demanded more time for debate. Lawmakers can pass the bill without his support, but it takes longer under Senate rules.

"We've been close, but close doesn't count on Senate business," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said. The chamber now plans to vote on the measure late Friday afternoon.

Lawmakers from both parties have begun to express frustration at how long the process was taking. The bill is expected to pass easily once a final vote is called.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who supports the bill, said he is pushing to have the package completed by the end of the month.

"We're almost at the point where what we're doing is too late," Sen. Isakson said. "You reach a point where what you are doing may stop the bleeding but doesn't turn the market around."

RealtyTrac Inc., an online foreclosure marketplace based in California, said 252,363 people entered foreclosure during the month of June, up 53% from 2007.

Because the Senate package is different than the bill that passed by the House of Representatives in May, lawmakers will have to reconcile their versions before sending a bill to the White House. Lawmakers hope to have it completed before the August recess and possibly as soon as next week. The White House has also threatened to veto the bill.

After months of negotiations, Sen. Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) brokered a compromise on the housing package in late May. The Senate Banking Committee approved the measure 19-2 and sent the bill to the Senate floor.

Democrats aimed to approve the bill before the July 4 break, but were unable to do so because of objections raised by Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.), who wanted to attach an amendment that would provide close to $6 billion in renewable-energy tax credits.

His efforts failed, but the process prolonged debate and set the stage for the objections later raised by Sen. DeMint. Based on preliminary votes, the bill could draw as many as 30 Republican votes.

"Two-hundred and fifty thousand people went through [foreclosure] in the month of June," said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), the bill's chief author. "And we're still here debating this bill about whether or not we can do anything to make a difference in people's lives."

 Damian Paletta at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121574994816045443.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

 
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