Amanda Carpenter

Reid’s bill contained the net operating loss deduction, a $10,000 tax deduction for new homeowners, tax-exempt bonds, and millions worth of community development block grants to help states and localities purchase foreclosed properties.

It also contained a controversial provision that would change bankruptcy code to allow bankruptcy courts to change the terms of mortgages on primary residences---something NAHB opposes because it could increase interest rates and discourage home purchases.

Joseph M. Stanton, chief lobbyist for NAHB wrote a letter to Reid on February 22, applauding his swift action on the bill, but insisting he retract the bankruptcy code change.

“Thank you for your support of housing and for including the Net Operating Losses and tax-exempt provision in S. 2636,” Stanton wrote. “Unfortunately, while NAHB strongly supports these tax provisions, NAHB must oppose the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 as currently drafted due to changes to the bankruptcy code.”

Reid’s bill as written, however, failed to get the needed 60 votes to proceed. It was defeated 48-46. Senators Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R.-Ala.) were then charged with working out a substitute bill.

The revamped bill as worked out by Dodd and Shelby will be voted on by the Senate Tuesday, the day two high-drama hearings will be held by the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees to receive testimony from Army General David H. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker about progress in Iraq. If it gains the 60 votes needed for cloture, it will immediately proceed to a final vote.

Dodd-Shelby offers many of the same provisions as Reid’s original bill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D.-Mo.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) wrote the measures in the bill to give homebuilders the net operating loss deduction, a $7,000 tax credit to those who purchase a home in the next two years and tax-exempt bond fund to pay for subprime mortgages

The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the Baucus-Grassley provisions will cost taxpayers nearly than $11 billion over the next 10 years.

“It’s appropriate to use the tax code to help people buy homes and to help the many business that are tied to the housing industry recover from losses,” Grassley said in a statement.

The overall cost of Dodd-Shelby will be much higher than the cost of the Baucus-Grassley provisions. The underlying bill also includes $4 billion in Community Development Block grants for states and localities to purchase foreclosed and vacant properties and up to $100 million to fund “foreclosure prevention counseling.”

Since 1998, Grassley has received at least $28,500 from NAHB’s PAC. Shelby has received at least $17,500, Baucus $15,000 and Dodd $1,000, according to information from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Dodd-Shelby does not contain the bankruptcy code change that NAHB found offensive, although Sen. Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.) has said he may offer it as an amendment.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is the author of “The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's Dossier on Hillary Clinton,” published in October 2006.
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