WASHINGTON — Home buyers may get an extra three months to finish qualifying for federal tax incentives that boosted home sales this spring.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday he wants to give buyers until Sept. 30 to complete their purchases and qualify for tax credits of up to $8,000. Under the current terms, buyers had until April 30 to get a signed sales contract and until June 30 to complete the sale.
The proposal would only allow people who already have signed contracts to finish at the later date. The National Association of Realtors estimates that about 180,000 home buyers who already signed purchase agreements are likely to miss the deadline.
Joining Reid were Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. The Senate is expected to take up the amendment next week.
Reid, who faces perhaps the toughest re-election campaign of his political career, represents a state that has the nation's highest foreclosure rate.
The Realtors group has been pushing hard in Congress for the extension. Mortgage lenders, the trade group says, have been swamped with borrowers trying to get approved by the end of the month. Many potential borrowers are unlikely to make the deadline.
"Time is of the essence," said Lucien Salvant, a spokesman for the group. "It's important for Congress to get this done, because there's whole bunch of loans that aren't' going to close on time."
First-time buyers were eligible for a tax credit of up to $8,000. Current owners who bought and moved into another home could qualify for a credit of up to $6,500.
Obama wins key vote to back EPA on global warming issue
President Barack Obama won a big victory Thursday when Democratic senators upheld the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to combat global warming by regulating greenhouse gases. Supporters of the EPA's powers under the Clean Air Act garnered the votes of 53 senators while 47 senators — all 41 Republicans and six Democrats — backed the resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to override the agency. The EPA, after designating greenhouse gases from such sources as automobiles and power plants as a danger to public health, has set new fuel economy rules for automobiles beginning with the 2012 model year. The Murkowski resolution sought to keep those regulations from going into force. For Florida, Republican Sen. George LeMieux voted to restrict the EPA; Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted to retain the EPA's powers.
Senate takes a four-day break without voting on jobless benefits
Congress headed home Thursday for a four-day break, after failing again to extend jobless benefits for an estimated 325,000 people, fund summer jobs for at-risk youths or help newly laid-off people pay for health care. Funding for extended unemployment benefits ran out June 2 while Congress was in the middle of a 10-day Memorial Day break. The House of Representatives had voted to continue the benefits until Nov. 30, but the Senate had not. Senators agreed to resume voting next Tuesday. Meanwhile, the National Employment Law Project estimated that 325,000 people won't be able to collect benefits. In addition, people laid off after June 1 won't be eligible for government help with their health insurance. This is the third time that Congress has missed on a deadline for extending the benefits; it's expected that benefits will be paid retroactively.