WASHINGTON -- The chances for continuing two popular bond programs past Dec. 31 darkened further yesterday when House Speaker Thomas Foley said he does not expect Congress to take up a bill that would extend those and other expiring tax provisions before adjourning for the year.
"At the present time, there are no plans that I know of to take up the extenders," Re, Foley, D-Wash., said in response to a reporter's question. "[That] could be subject to change, but there is at the moment no plan to do it."
Rep. Foley's comments came as Capital Hill watchers traded rumors that the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee would act in the next week to draft a bare-bones tax bill containing a one-year extension of the expiring provisions. They include the tax exemptions for mortgage revenue bonds and small-issue industrial development bonds, and the low-income housing tax credit.
Tax committee spokesmen, however, said there are no drafting sessions scheduled. Congressional tax aides said they had heard the rumors but put little stock in them, and one lobbyist said the idea of holding drafting sessions at this point "is highly implausible."
The speaker, meanwhile, said he had not asked Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., to rush an "extender bill" through his committee.
"I think he's disinclined to take it up this year," he said. "And there does not seem to be a very strong view in the Committee on Ways and Means on either side of the aisle to do that."
Rep. Foley's remarks on the expiring provisions came during his daily press briefing, which began when a reporter asked him what was on his list of must-do legislation before Congress adjourns for the year, presumably during the week of Thanksgiving. In offering that list, Rep. Foley did not mention the expiring provisions.
Later inthe briefing, in discussing the expiring provisions, Rep. Foley indicated that he favored renewing them in 1992, when Congress is expected to draft a major tax bill. "I think most of these can be considered early next year," he said.
Several lobbyists have said there are probably only two avenues left for extending the expiring provisions. Once is for Congress to pass a small, stand-alone bill. But such a measure would have to have a companion piece that included revenue-raising items to offset the revenue loss caused by the extensions.
The other would be for the extensions to be attached to another bill that has a tax component. The only candidate left is a measure to extend unemployment benefits, which is expected to be passed by both houses this week. But tax aides said congressional leaders have been fighting to keep extraneous amendments off that bill, and will continue to do so.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. John C. Danforth, D-Mo., is still pressing the leadership to ensure the expiring provisions are not allowed to die, lobbyists said. Last week, Sen. Danforth introduced legislation that would continue all 12 provisions for another year.
Also yesterday, Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., took a moment out from floor debate on banking legislation to say the provisions must be taken care of before Congress adjourns.