Congress Passes Housing Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate lawmakers on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a broad package of housing legislation, hoping to send a calming message to financial markets and voters amid the ongoing deterioration of the housing market and a growing number of bank failures.

Meeting in a rare weekend session, the Senate voted 72-13 in favor of the bill, which includes tax breaks for homeowners, a $300 billion program to refinance loans for struggling borrowers, and a dramatic rescue plan for embattled mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Other provisions include an increase in the federal debt limit to $10.6 trillion and long-sought reforms to the Federal Housing Administration.

The vote completes congressional action on the legislation, which is the result of months of political wrangling and negotiations between the House and Senate, Treasury Department, and other federal regulators. The House voted 272-152 to pass the bill on Wednesday.

It will now be sent to President George W. Bush, who the White House has said will sign the bill despite voicing earlier misgivings about certain provisions of the legislation.

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