House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he expects his colleagues will support legislation now moving through the Senate to extend and expand the first-time homebuyer tax credit currently scheduled to expire at the end of this month.

The Senate on Monday voted 85-2 to place limits on further debate of HR 3548, a bill extending unemployment benefits that includes an amendment that would allow homebuyers to claim the credit on sales under contract before May 1. The vote to invoke cloture moves HR 3548 closer to a final vote in the Senate as early as today.

If the version of HR 3548 moving through the Senate is approved by the House and signed into law, the tax credit — equal to 10 percent of a home’s purchase price, up to a maximum $8,000 — would be available to a larger pool of borrowers.

As amended, the bill would allow homeowners who have owned and used their principal residence for any five-consecutive-year period during the past eight years to claim a credit of up to $6,500 if they sell that home and buy another.

The version of HR 3548 moving through the Senate would also expand income limits for claiming the credit from $75,000 to $125,000 for individuals and from $125,000 to $225,000 for couples, although homes purchases exceeding $800,000 would not be eligible. …CONTINUED

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week said he hoped the House and Senate would approve the bill this week.

But Rep. Hoyer, D-Md., and other House Democrats have voiced concern about the cost of extending the credit. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the extension of the tax credit now being considered would cost $10.8 billion over 10 years.

Hoyer said today that he’s pleased the Senate has proposed eliminating the credit after April 30 and that he expects House lawmakers to get behind the bill, Reuters reported.

The Obama administration has also voiced support for the more limited extension of the tax credit being included in HR 3548.

Previous proposals to extend the tax credit included a standalone bill, S 1230, introduced by former real estate broker Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., that would have raised the ceiling on the tax credit to $15,000 and lifted first-time homebuyer and income restrictions. The Congressional Budget Office estimated a similar bill introduced by Isakson in 2008 would have cost $34.2 billion to implement.

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