WASHINGTON - A standoff between federal lawmakers over whether to add an amendment containing renewable energy tax credits to an omnibus housing bill pending in the Senate has delayed until after the July 4 recess a vote that had been expected earlier this week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said late Wednesday that despite an overwhelming vote Monday to limit debate on the bill, the Senate will be unable to vote on it until members return from their holiday break in July.
The reason for the delay, according to Democrats, is that Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is demanding his energy tax-extenders amendment be included, and is preventing lawmakers from moving forward with the bill.
The Senate leadership has not permitted him to offer the amendment, since it is not housing related. However, Ensign has maintained that since the housing bill is one of the few that will eventually be signed into law this year, he needs to try and get his amendment included in the package. The amendment would authorize $3 billion of energy conservation bonds and $2 billion of clean renewable energy bonds, as well as modify tax-exempt and tax-credit bonds issued in Gulf Opportunity Zones and areas affected by flooding in the Midwest.
Housing sources said yesterday that despite the delay, the bill will be passed eventually, and that it is likely that most if not all of the tax-exempt bond provisions will be signed into law.
If passed, the bill would provide an additional $11 billion of mortgage revenue bonds to be used by state and local housing finance agencies to refinance subprime mortgages as well as provide new loans to first-time homebuyers.
The bill also would permanently exempt all new housing bonds from the alternative minimum tax.
President Bush has threatened to veto the measure, but lawmakers were hoping he would not follow through if they made changes to the bill, including removing a provision that would provide $4 billion in community development block grant funds to state and local governments to purchase and refurbish or raze foreclosed homes.