Senate Housing Bill Hits Unexpected Snag

A lone Senator apparently now stands between a $300 billion expansion of the Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage insurance program, and a growing number of Republican and Democratic Senators who want to push their version of a housing relief package through the Senate floor as fast as possible. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) on Wednesday delayed Senate progress towards a final vote on the proposal, forcing the issue over a non-housing-related amendment tied to renewable energy tax cuts. It’s a lonely position to occupy within a Senate that earlier invoked cloture on the housing package by a sweeping margin, at 83-9 — signaling strong bipartisan support for the controversial package, despite repeated veto threats from the White House. “I’m going to do everything I can to try to get my renewable tax credit amendment done,” Ensign told Reuters in a report published by the news agency. “We’ve got a lot of procedural tools,” he said. “We can delay this [housing] bill quite a bit unless they allow us a vote on our amendment.” Ensign’s standoff comes as fellow Nevada Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has warned that the Senate will not consider amendments that are not housing-related. That edict will clearly be tested, especially given that the first debate window under cloture runs out at 5:45pm EST Wednesday. “If people dig in their heels and say we’re not going to do that, we might be in a situation where we don’t finish the housing legislation,” Reid said, according to a report by CQ Politics. “That would be a shame.” To say that Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, was ticked off by the move would probably be an understatement. Dodd, who has been under fire for his tied to Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC), helped craft the housing legislation under consideration. “One United States senator said ‘No, I’m sorry, but my bill is more important than the 8,000 of you and the 8,000 yesterday and the 8,000 tomorrow,'” Dodd said in early morning remarks on the Senate floor. Stay tuned, folks.

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