Friday, June 12, 2009

Republicans hammer Democrats on Guantanamo

Republicans hammer Democrats on Guantanamo
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. lawmakers are digging in their heels over President Barack Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for foreign terrorism suspects, demanding details of his efforts, limits on detainee movements and thorough risk assessments.
Republicans in Congress have sought to amend legislation to seek more details about Obama's plan for closing the facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, which they say is an ideal and safe place for the trials and detention of terrorism suspects.
The battle over Guantanamo has been longer and tougher than Democratic leaders expected, and could signal more determined Republican opposition to other issues on Obama's legislative agenda such as healthcare reform and climate change.
Obama's Democrats control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but Republicans still have managed to put Obama on the defensive over his plan to shut the prison by January. Obama has not detailed his plans for all the detainees.
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday succeeded in amending a 2010 homeland security spending bill to bar detainees from coming to U.S. soil except for trial, and to demand a detailed risk assessment for those moved to the United States for any reason.
"Bottom line, we need to know the threat posed by the transfer of these terrorists to the United States, should that occur," said Republican Representative Harold Rogers, the author of the amendment.
Despite Republican pressure, Democrats have managed to secure agreement that the detainees may come to the United States for trial. However, the Washington Post reported that Obama has given up on trying to resettle detainees in the United States who will not face criminal charges.
A HEADACHE FOR OBAMA
The Guantanamo fight has been a headache for Obama and congressional Democrats, who have been forced to accept some limits sought by Republicans in part for fear that they could be seen as soft on security.
The House and Senate next week are expected to approve a war funding bill that omits $80 million that Obama wanted to begin closing the prison and sets strict limits on detainee movements through September 30.
The administration has been transferring detainees before limits are set, sending one to New York for trial and six others to be resettled in Bermuda, Iraq and Chad. Some Republicans say Obama is trying to beat the clock.
"How, in all good conscience, can the administration ignore the requirements that they know are coming and proceed to release and transfer detainees?" Rogers asked.
Democrats say Republican maneuvers may complicate efforts to bring detainees to trial. They also say U.S. prisons are capable of holding even the most dangerous of the detainees.
"I have no question that we can handle these folks being in our system," said Democratic Representative John Murtha, a leading voice on defense matters.
(Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: Reuters

U.S. congressional negotiators back war funding bill

By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional negotiators on Thursday approved a $106 billion compromise bill largely backing President Barack Obama's missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but restricting his effort to quickly close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The package was in limbo for hours over whether to include a provision to prevent the release of photos by U.S. personnel depicting abuse of prisoners that Obama and some lawmakers fear could provoke a backlash against U.S. troops.
Obama intervened personally to lobby against the amendment but vowed to keep the pictures under wraps. He told lawmakers in a letter that the provision would "unnecessarily complicate the essential objective of supporting the troops."
On Thursday, a federal appeals court in New York stayed an order that the Defense Department release the photographs, giving the Obama administration time to argue its objections before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to make the photos public. Lawmakers from the Democratic-controlled Senate and House of Representatives voted along party lines to reject two attempts to reincorporate the provision into the bill.
"All he (Obama) has to do today is use an executive order to declare these photos classified material," said Republican Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama and has pushed to keep the photos from being released.
The overall package includes $79.9 billion for U.S. forces in Iraq where Obama is trying to wind down the American presence and in Afghanistan where the president is ramping up operations to fight remaining al Qaeda militants.
The bill has grown steadily as Obama sought billions of dollars to also combat the H1N1 flu virus, which has now become a pandemic. He also asked for $108 billion in credit lines to shore up the International Monetary Fund as it helps developing countries weather the economic downturn.
Democrats and Republicans have also larded up the bill with a few of their own items like military transport planes the Pentagon did not request and money to spur car sales through vouchers for consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill. But negotiators have been hammering it out for weeks and Democrats hope both chambers will approve it next week.
The compromise has been a hard-fought battle for Obama and his fellow Democrats because of several issues, including the abuse photos as well as the IMF funding that Republicans have argued should be considered on its own merits.
The IMF provisions also endorse the lender's plan to sell some 400 tons (12.97 million ounces) of its gold.
FIGHT OVER GUANTANAMO PRISONERS
They also argued over closing the U.S. prison in Cuba where terrorism suspects picked up after September 11 have been held. Obama pledged to close the facility by January 2010 and had asked Congress for $80 million to start that process.
Democrats rejected the money request but brokered a deal that would allow detainees into the United States for trial, although not permanent detention. The bill would also ban releasing any detainees into the country through September 30. Continued...
Source: Reuters

U.S. near tighter rein on tobacco after Senate vote

U.S. near tighter rein on tobacco after Senate vote
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday backed a historic plan giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sweeping power over cigarettes and other tobacco products, allowing the agency to curb advertisements, require stronger package warnings and inspect manufacturers.
Supporters, backed by hundreds of health advocacy groups, cheered the bill's passage as a way to rein in cigarette makers and reduce smoking, especially among teenagers and children.
"The tobacco companies' days of peddling one of the most deadly products in the world have finally come to an end," Democratic Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin said. "Now, we've given the FDA the tools necessary to protect millions of children and families from deadly tobacco-related diseases."
Under the measure, which passed in a bipartisan 79-17 vote, the FDA would also collect millions of dollars in fees from cigarette makers, which must register with the agency and provide a list all the products they make.
A similar measure has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier on Thursday she wanted to look closely at the Senate's bill. "But from what I have seen so far, I believe it will be possible for us to accept their bill and send it right on to the president," she said.
President Barack Obama, who has discussed his own struggles to quit smoking, said he will sign the bill into law, saying "it will make history by giving the scientists and medical experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps that will reduce tobacco's harmful effects and prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children."
TOBACCO COMPANIES DIVIDED ON BILL
The American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association and other advocacy groups urged quick final passage.
Tobacco companies, which suffered a blow last month when an appeals court agreed that the industry lied to hide the dangers of smoking, are divided over the likely new regulations.
Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, the nation's largest cigarette maker, supports "tough but reasonable federal regulation of tobacco products," it said in a statement.
But others, such as Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc's Lorillard Tobacco Co, say new records and fees will be a burden.
Reynolds spokeswoman Maura Payne said the company would comply with the regulations when they become law, but that "a lot of the details are yet to be worked out."
The bill explicitly bans flavored tobacco products, except for menthol. Banning menthol could have especially hurt Lorillard, the top menthol cigarette maker. The bill does call for a report on the impact of menthol cigarette use, especially among blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.
This is not the first time the tobacco companies have faced tighter controls. Television and radio cigarette ads have been banned for decades, and package warnings have been around just as long. Various court settlements over the years have also called for marketing restrictions.
Under the Senate plan, advertising curbs would include print media with large youth audiences. It also calls for restricted vending machine sales, among other steps. Continued...
Source: Reuters

Senate votes to give FDA greater control over tobacco

Senate votes to give FDA greater control over tobacco
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday backed a historic plan giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sweeping power over cigarettes and other tobacco products, allowing the agency to curb advertisements, require stronger package warnings and inspect manufacturers.
Supporters, backed by hundreds of health advocacy groups, cheered the bill's passage as a way to rein in cigarette makers and curb smoking, especially among teenagers and children.
"The tobacco companies' days of peddling one of the most deadly products in the world have finally come to an end," Democratic Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin said. "Now, we've given the FDA the tools necessary to protect millions of children and families from deadly tobacco-related diseases."
Under the measure, which passed in a bipartisan 79-17 vote, the FDA would regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products, curb advertisements and require stronger package warnings. It would also inspect cigarette makers, which must register with the agency and provide a list all the products they make.
A similar measure has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier on Thursday she wanted to look closely at the Senate's bill. "But from what I have seen so far, I believe it will be possible for us to accept their bill and send it right on to the president," she said.
President Barack Obama, who has discussed his own struggles to quit smoking, said he will sign the bill into law, saying "it will make history by giving the scientists and medical experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps that will reduce tobacco's harmful effects and prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children."
Tobacco companies, which suffered a blow last month when an appeals court agreed the industry lied to hide the dangers of smoking, are divided over the likely new regulations.
Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, the nation's largest cigarette maker, "has supported tough but reasonable federal regulation of tobacco products," the company said in a statement.
But others, such as Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc's Lorillard Tobacco Co, say new records and fees will be a burden.
Reynolds spokeswoman Maura Payne said the company would comply with the regulations when they become law, but that "a lot of the details are yet to be worked out."
The bill explicitly bans flavored tobacco products, except for menthol, a move that could have especially hurt Lorillard. It does call for a report on the impact of menthol cigarette use, especially among blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.
This is not the first time the tobacco companies have faced tighter controls. Television and radio cigarette ads have been banned for nearly 40 years.
Under the Senate plan, advertising curbs would also target print media with large youth audiences. It also takes other steps, such as restricting vending machine sales to adult-only places.
The plan's opponents said the FDA, which has been dogged by various tainted food and drug safety scandals in recent years, is not up to the task of regulating yet another industry.
Some also say money would be better spent on programs that directly help people stop smoking rather than simply regulating a product that is known to cause death and serious illnesses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said tobacco use causes more than 400,000 preventable deaths in the United States each year. Continued...
Source: Reuters

House Republicans propose financial reforms

By Kevin Drawbaugh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of U.S. Republican lawmakers on Thursday unveiled proposals to reform financial regulation by reining in the Federal Reserve, expanding the bankruptcy code and merging two bank regulatory agencies.
Their five-page document, released at a press conference, could give political cover to lawmakers who are skeptical about some of the Obama administration's own proposals for reform in response to the worst financial crisis in generations.
"Regulatory reform is needed to make sure that financial companies are never again allowed to wager their consumers' money without consequence, nor to rely on the government for a handout when they make reckless decisions," said Representative Scott Garrett, the top Republican on a key House markets panel.
Democrats, who control both the White House and Congress, are setting the reform agenda. President Barack Obama is expected to unveil a set of proposals on June 17. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will testify the next day before both the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd on Thursday called for creation of an independent consumer protection agency to oversee credit and bank products.
The Republican package examines many of the same issues that have been under study for months among Democrats, but predictably reaches some different conclusions.
For instance, the administration wants to establish a "systemic risk regulator" that would monitor and possibly intervene to address financial dangers in the economy.
The Republican package opposes giving systemic risk authority to the Federal Reserve, an idea that sources have said the administration favors, but many lawmakers distrust.
Instead, the Republicans call for creating a board of regulators to study systemic risk and report quarterly. The board would have no enforcement or supervisory powers.
NO MORE AIGS
Another high Obama administration priority is empowering a government agency to seize and unwind troubled non-bank financial institutions to avoid on-the-fly bailouts in the future like that of American International Group.
But Republicans, in a sharp repudiation of the bailout policies begun under former President George W. Bush, oppose such "resolution authority." They propose adding a new chapter to bankruptcy law specifically dealing with troubled, large non-bank financial institutions.
On bank regulation, the Republicans call for merging the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates mortgage lenders, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates many of the nation's largest banks.
The resulting regulator would also take on bank supervision duties now held by the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, both of which would be refocused on their core jobs -- monetary policy for the Fed, and deposit insurance for the FDIC.
The Republicans also want to limit the Fed's power to lend money to businesses in emergencies, under certain conditions. Under Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Fed has made loans to help broker the sale of Bear Stearns and bail out AIG. Continued...
Source: Reuters

U.S. won't make same mistakes on tanker: AF chief

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force has stepped up training, elevated oversight and reached out to outside experts to avoid making the same mistakes that doomed its last attempt to buy new aerial refueling tankers, the service's top military officer said on Thursday.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said he expected Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make decisions soon on the acquisition process for the next tanker competition between Northrop Grumman Corp and Boeing Co.
"The bottom line is we have taken lessons from that very searing experience and we intend to be very much more rigorous here once the secretary of defense decides one, what the acquisition strategy will be and two, who will execute that strategy," Schwartz said told a Heritage Foundation event.
He said the Air Force had elevated the level of supervision of the source selection process for the tanker acquisition program, was reaching out to a "broader array of talent" within the Air Force, and had added a panel of outside experts to point out possible shortfalls and add more "quality control."
The Pentagon last year decided to redo the tanker competition amid a political firestorm that erupted after government auditors upheld a Boeing protest against the Air Force award of a $35 billion contract to Northrop and Europe's EADS in February 2008.
Gates this week said he expected to make a decision within the next two weeks about the acquisition process, with an eye to releasing a draft request for proposals this summer, after getting input from lawmakers.
Schwartz said he respected the work done by Air Force acquisition officials on the contract, and noted that only eight of over 100 issues raised by Boeing were upheld by GAO.
Mark Werfel, a Virginia-based consultant who spent three decades working on federal acquisition issues, argues that the Air Force could have legally awarded the contract to Boeing after the GAO ruling last summer.
That would have saved the time and the cost of running a whole new competition, and gotten the Air Force the new refueling tankers it needs sooner, Werfel said.
In its decision, GAO concluded that the Air Force improperly accepted the Northrop bid because the company explicitly took exception to a requirement to help the Air Force set up a depot maintenance facility within two years.
"Boeing's proposal was still in play for award," Werfel said. "Given the rules clearly allowed an award to Boeing, the public should know why none was made."
Werfel noted that the GAO decision said the Air Force repeatedly contacted Northrop about correcting what it knew to be a material deficiency before the contract award was made, an implicit acknowledgment that the proposal was not acceptable.
Moreover, Werfel said, the Pentagon could have grounds to refuse to pay Northrop's termination costs, a matter still being negotiated, since the company had explicitly refused to meet the requirement for the proposal.
Schwartz said the Air Force had learned important lessons from the GAO report and the issues raised by both companies, but declined comment on the termination cost issue.
"That is for the lawyers to debate and we'll see what the outcome is," he said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing Bernard Orr)

Source: Reuters

U.S. House passes bill to triple aid to Pakistan

By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved tripling U.S. aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for each of the next five years in a key part of a strategy to combat extremism with economic and social development.
The bill also includes military aid with conditions that require the Obama administration to certify that Pakistan remains committed to combating terrorist groups -- a provision that was criticized by the key U.S. ally in South Asia.
The $1.5 billion in annual funding includes money for Pakistani schools, the judicial system, parliament and law enforcement agencies.
The action came the same day that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to major donors for more funding for Pakistan, saying it was at risk of a "spiraling secondary crisis" without more international aid.
The bill, which includes $400 million in annual military aid for 2010-2013, also passed as Pakistan's military opened a second front against domestic Taliban militants who U.S. officials fear could destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Fighting in the Bannu district of the Waziristan tribal region flared up on Thursday as the Pakistani military was completing the last stages of an operation to clear Islamist fighters from the Swat valley, near Islamabad.
"The current conditions in Pakistan underline the importance of moving urgently on this legislation," said Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen. "This is the time to send a signal and initiate a policy of economic development in these difficult regions," he added.
Van Hollen's amendment to the legislation, which must still be harmonized with a similar bill in the U.S. Senate, sets up so-called Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, from which textiles and other items can be exported duty-free to the United States.
The zones represent an effort by the Obama government to combat al-Qaeda and Taliban recruitment of insurgents by creating jobs for unemployed youth in underdeveloped parts of the two countries.
"Support in Congress for aid for Pakistan will strengthen the resolve of the Pakistani people and government in confronting violent extremists and terrorists," said Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani.
He also said his government was unhappy about the conditions tied to some of the aid.
"Some conditional language that has been included in the aid bill is not conducive to promoting the objectives of counterterrorism cooperation," the ambassador said, adding that he hoped the Senate would remove those terms when they complete passage of the aid package.
But Howard Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said Congress was "simply asking Pakistan to follow through with the commitments it has already made."
"In the process, we lay down an important marker that Congress will no longer provide a 'blank check,'" he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan told a news briefing he had noticed a dramatic improvement in Pakistan's attitude toward fighting Islamist extremists during his visit there last week.
(Editing by Eric Beech)

Source: Reuters

Obama presses healthcare overhaul in heartland

Obama presses healthcare overhaul in heartland
By Doug Palmer
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took his push for healthcare overhaul to the U.S. heartland on Thursday, calling the current system unsustainable and vowing not to tolerate "endless delay" before acting to fix it.
Hosting a townhall-style meeting, Obama stuck to his view that a government-sponsored insurance plan must be part of a healthcare revamp, despite opposition to the idea from Republicans, private insurers and even the influential American Medical Association doctors' group.
"We have reached a point where doing nothing about the cost of health care is no longer an option. The status quo is unsustainable," the Democratic president said. He insisted, however, he was not seeking a "government takeover" of the troubled system.
Obama's drive on healthcare comes as lawmakers seek to craft a bill and pass it through the Senate before their summer break. Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives also hope to pass legislation by August.
"As Congress moves forward on healthcare legislation in the coming weeks, I understand there will be different ideas and disagreements ... I welcome those ideas," he said. "But what I will not welcome is endless delay."
Underscoring a sense of urgency, he said, "If we don't get it done this year, we're probably not going to get it done."
COSTS
Obama acknowledged public concerns about the cost of extending coverage to tens of millions of people who do not have health insurance at time when the government is spending heavily on economic recovery programs and financial bailouts.
"That's why I have already promised that reform will not add to our deficit over the next 10 years," he said.
"To make that happen, we have already identified hundreds of billions worth of savings in our budget -- savings that will come from steps like reducing Medicare overpayments to insurance companies and rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in both Medicare and Medicaid," he said. "I will be outlining hundreds of billions more in savings in the days to come."
But with some estimates putting the cost of healthcare reform at $1.2 trillion, Obama conceded those savings will not be enough.
"That's why I've proposed that we scale back how much the highest-income Americans can deduct on their taxes back to the rate that existed under the Reagan years and we can use that money to help finance health care," he said.
Back in Washington, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on a plan that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage or charging more due to medical history.
Many congressional Republicans have criticized Democratic proposals for including a public insurance program that would compete with private insurers.
Defending that idea, Obama said, "The reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care ... But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and help keep prices down."
(Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Source: Reuters

Obama administration steps up push to oversee pay

Obama administration steps up push to oversee pay
No caps on executive pay -Treasury
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By Karey Wutkowski and Glenn Somerville
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration stepped up efforts on Thursday to push for measures to tie executive pay at all publicly traded companies more closely to performance, but faced some skepticism from lawmakers.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department said that seven companies receiving government bailout money will be subject to strict oversight on pay for their top executives and other highly paid employees. Treasury also said it wants new laws to empower the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure that shareholders have more say in setting pay.
"While the financial sector has been at the center of this issue, we believe that compensation practices must be better aligned with long-term value and prudent risk management at all firms," Treasury Counselor Gene Sperling told the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services.
Both President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have said that Wall Street compensation practices encouraged excessive risk-taking, sowing the seeds of the financial crisis that has driven the United States and many other countries around the globe into recession.
Lawmakers from both major parties expressed uneasiness at the prospect of what they considered growing interference by government in business affairs. They suggested that regulatory reform and a determination to let companies stand or fail on their own would be preferable to putting taxpayer money into struggling companies.
"Executive compensation limits to address systemic risk are the wrong remedy for what is probably a nonexistent problem," said Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from Texas.
APPROACH IN QUESTION - NOT THE EFFORT
But the committee's influential chairman, Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, took a different tack, saying he was not concerned about letting the government have a role in policing pay levels, though he doubted whether some proposed measures would work.
Frank did not indicate whether he would oppose passage of the two new laws that Treasury wants -- one to give the SEC authority to require companies to allow non-binding shareholder votes on pay packages for top executives and another to ensure that internal pay committees that set pay levels and perks for company leaders are more independent from management.
A second Democrat, Representative Brad Sherman from California, said the administration's proposals did not go far enough, particularly the say-on-pay vote. "I believe we ought to look at that being binding, not just advisory," he said.
As he opened his testimony, Treasury's Sperling said the government wasn't aiming to "micro-manage" pay practices nor to put caps on pay for executives. But he repeated that the current financial crisis was partly fueled by compensation practices that encouraged top executives to pursue risky strategies in hope of reaping big bonuses and incentive payments.
The committee heard from two panels, one of them made up of pay experts who warned there can be "unintended consequences" from efforts to curb pay that can make the situation worse.
SCRAMBLING TO PLUG HOLES IN THE PAY DIKE
A law professor at George Mason University, J.W. Verret, cited 1993 tax code changes that were intended to curb the disparity between pay for executives and wages for ordinary workers by limiting the deductibility of nonperformance-based compensation.
"The result was that executive compensation increased exponentially and the disparity immediately widened," he said. Continued...
Source: Reuters

New home subsidy plan seen with little support

By Chavon Sutton
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Proposed legislation that would provide consumers with a $15,000 tax credit for home purchases to stimulate the depressed U.S. housing market is seen as having very little chance of getting through Congress.
On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson said that his proposal would nearly double an existing tax credit for first time home buyers and loosen the terms of that incentive.
The current $8,000 tax credit, first passed in February as part of a $787 billion fiscal stimulus plan, is limited to first-time homebuyers and expires at the end of 2009. The new plan would expand eligibility to all homebuyers and increase that credit to $15,000.
"One in two sales made every day is a short sale or a foreclosure," Isakson said in a statement about his proposed legislation. "That is an unhealthy market, and it is continuing to precipitate a downward spiral in values, loss of equity by the American people and a protracted, difficult economic time for our country," said the Georgia Republican.
But some analysts say the chances of the legislation passing through both houses are slim because of stimulus fatigue.
"There is bailout burnout across the country," said Brian Gardner, senior vice president for investment bank Keefe, Bruyette& Woods' Washington research team. "There's an argument for the stimulus, but the possibility of the bill passing is unclear."
The plan's substantial costs could also present a roadblock to its passage.
"Our view is that there's going to be a pretty hefty price tag for this," said Jaret Seiberg, a policy analyst for Concept Capital's Washington Research Group. "We estimate a cost of no less than $30 billion and in an era of record deficits, it will be hard for lawmakers to accept that cost."
The legislation also seeks to extend the deadline of the tax credit by one year and would open the credit to high-income homebuyers by eliminating income restrictions.
The National Association of Realtors and National Association of Homebuilders support the bill and argue that it would help reduce foreclosures, erase the overstock of homes and stabilize property values.
(Reporting by Chavon Sutton; Editing by Martin Howell & Theodore d'Afflisio)

Source: Reuters
 

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