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Housing Package on Tap

House leaders are on track to send a $25 billion emergency housing package to the Rules Committee on Tuesday night and take it up on the floor Wednesday, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told reporters. Democrats are also lining up a Thursday vote on the suspension calendar on legislation aimed at releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. House leaders are awaiting Senate action on their other priority energy issue — a bill to curb oil market speculation — before scheduling a vote in their chamber. Frank said the housing bill “breaks even” outside of the White House-backed language aimed at propping up beleaguered mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bill will include offsets for $4 billion for community development block grant funds to allow states to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed homes. President Bush has vowed to veto the entire package over this component, but Democrats are doubtful that will happen given the need to aid the ailing mortgage industry. The bill will give the government the authority but not a mandate to open new credit lines for the two mortgage companies, Frank said. Asked if Blue Dog Democrats are on board with the Congressional Budget Office’s estimated $25 billion price tag, Frank said he was on his way to meet with them but that they met earlier with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and it seemed all parties were behind the bill. Blue Dog Co-Chairman Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) later said the housing bill warrants an emergency designation, a move that would exempt it from pay-as-you-go budget rules. “Years of reckless policies by this administration have left us in a dire fiscal and economic situation,” Ross said. “We are clearly facing an emergency situation, and we must act now in order to secure the financial future of millions of homeowners across the United States.” Frank noted that the CBO estimate predicts that less than 50 percent of the $25 billion would even need to be used. “We hope it won’t have to be used,” the Financial Services chairman said. “If it has to be used, it will be some.”

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