WASHINGTON -- The Senate quickly approved legislation yesterday to extend two popular bond programs through June 30, 1992, as Congress struggled to complete its work and adjourn by today.
The House was also scheduled to vote on the bill yesterday, but had not done so by late yesterday afternoon. It was expected to pass the measure.
The House debated the measure in the early afternoon and attempted to approve it on a voice vote, but final action was delayed when Rep. Bill Arher, R-Tex., requested a roll call vote. That vote was expected to occur late last night or early this morning.
The Senate approved the measure under a special procedural motion in which Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Me., asked for unanimous consent that the House bill be considered passed by the Senate automatically as soon as it reached the Senate. There were no objections to the procedure by senators.
The bill must win final congressional approval by today for the expiring provisions to be continued beyond Dec. 31, because Congress is expected to adjourn for the year. The provisions include the tax exemptions for mortgage revenue bonds and small-issue industrial development bonds as well as for the low-income housing tax credit.
Once the legislation clears both houses, it should have smooth sailing at the White House because the Office of Management and Budget released a statement yesterday saying the Bush administration has no objections to the measure, which is usually an indication the president will sign it.
The Senate action came just a day after the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee rushed the measure to a vote.
During House debate on the bill, Ways and MEans Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., reiterated his pledge to revisit the tax breaks next year and decide, once and for all, which of them should be made permanent and which should be allowed to die.
Temporarily extending the provisions "has become an annual ritual," Rep. Rostenkowski said. "Their off-again nature is bad for government and bad for the taxpayers who benefit from them."
The six-month extension approved by the House "should be adequate to allow for a permanent solution, in the event that major tax legislation is considered next year," he added.
Rep. Rostenkowski said each tax break will be thoroughly examined, and "the burden will be on those who support individual extenders" to make the case for that provision.
Rep. Rostenkowski"s statement "was a very encouraging sign for those of us interested in getting out of the year-to-year anxiety over the fate" of tax breaks like the IDB exemption, said Guy Land, a lobbyist for the Council of Industrial Development Bond Issuers.
Although proponents of the bond exemptions had been pushing for a longer extension, they said they were not disappointed at the prospec of receiving six months.
"We're delighted with the six-month extension, particularly when many said it was not possible to get any extension this year," said John C. Murphy, the executive director of the Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies.
"I would rather have a year, but six months is clearly long enough for Congress to do another major tax bill," said John T. McEvoy, the executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies.