WASHINGTON - The Senate passed an economic stimulus package yesterday, but only after lawmakers removed several provisions, including one that would have raised the private-activity bond volume cap by $10 billion and allowed state and local housing finance agencies to use the extra capacity to help homeowners refinance subprime mortgages.

The package, which was approved by a vote of 81 to 16, is a pared-down version of one passed by the Senate Finance committee last week. The cuts were made after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., failed late Wednesday to garner enough votes to limit debate on that measure and was forced to compromise.

Barbara Thompson, executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies, said that while disappointed by the exclusion, she is hopeful the provision will find its way into future bills.

"We're very hopeful that there will be another opportunity to get it done some other way, some other time this year," she said. "The administration as well as Republicans and Democrats in Congress want to see this done, so we will fight on."

The Senate was expected to send its version of the stimulus package to the House for approval as early as last night for a possible vote.

The mortgage revenue bond proposal stripped from the Senate measure was sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore. However, that proposal may not advance any further because the administration has proposed a similar measure that would raise the PAB cap by $15 billion, and other lawmakers have also either proposed or vowed to propose their own MRB initiatives. q

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