Senate Democrats fell one vote short Wednesday in an attempt to expand a $146 billion economic stimulus plan approved by the House last week.

Although the debate on the stimulus plan could drag on, House and Senate lawmakers see eye to eye on a temporary increase of the $417,000 conforming loan limit.

A procedural vote to close debate on an amendment introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to gain the needed three-fifths majority of 60 votes. The Nevada Democrat voted against his own amendment at the last minute in order to preserve his right to call for another vote.

The resulting 58-41 vote fell along party lines, with only eight of 49 Republicans voting with Democrats and the Senate’s two independents to expand the stimulus bill. Republican Sen. John McCain was absent.

Reid’s amendment would have trimmed rebate checks to be sent to taxpayers under the House bill in order to also send rebates to low-income families that don’t pay taxes and Social Security recipients. Democrats also want to extend unemployment insurance, give companies the ability to backdate losses for tax purposes, and let state and local governments issue bonds to refinance subprime mortgages.

Unless Reid can convince one more Republican to support the expanded stimulus plan, Senate Democrats could attempt to revive an earlier compromise offered by Republicans to allow an amendment that would provide tax rebates to seniors and veterans without other additions.

The White House, which signed off on the House stimulus bill, has urged the Senate to approve it without further amendments (see Inman News story).

Reid’s proposed amendments leave in place a proposal by the House to raise the upper limit for loans eligible for backing by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA loan guarantee programs until the end of this year to 125 percent of the median home price, with an upper limit of $729,750

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