House lawmakers on Tuesday passed a standalone bill, HR 5623, that would extend today’s deadline for closing on a home purchase to Sept. 30, and a spokeswoman for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate could consider approval of that extension "as early as today."

"Sen. Reid … said this morning on the floor that we are working to reach an agreement with Republicans to pass the House-passed homebuyer tax credit closing date extension by unanimous consent as early as today," said Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle, in an e-mail to Inman News.

Separate legislation to extend the deadline for closing on a home purchase to claim the federal homebuyer tax credit remains tied to Senate legislation (HR 4213) that would extend unemployment benefits, though that legislation will not likely come up for a vote until after the scheduled June 30 expiration of the tax credit’s closing deadline.

A June 24 vote to end debate in the Senate and hold a vote on HR 4213 failed to win the needed 60 votes. Republican opponents said the bill would increase the federal deficit, and voting was on straight party lines.

Senate Democrats today announced a substitute amendment to HR 4213 that strips some of the bill’s more controversial provisions but leaves in place language reinstating federal unemployment insurance benefits and extending the purchase closing date for homebuyers to qualify for the tax credit.

To address concerns that prison inmates have been claiming the homebuyer tax credit, the amended bill would allow the Internal Revenue Service to disclose tax-return information to officers and employees of state agencies charged with the administration of prisons.

If the Senate approves the substitute amendment introduced by Senators Reid and Max Baucus, D-Mont., it would have to go back to the House for approval before it could be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.

If the Senate votes to approve HR 5623, the House’s standalone bill extending the closing deadline for claiming the homebuyer tax credit, that legislation could go directly to the president’s desk.

The National Association of Realtors estimates as many as 180,000 homebuyers who were under contract by April 30 may miss the current June 30 closing deadline, but it’s unclear how many of those transactions would fall through.

If there isn’t a vote today on the standalone legislation, "It’s possible (President Obama) can get something tomorrow, but not if this substitute (bill) has to go back to House," said NAR spokesman Lucien Salvant. Democrats may still fall short of the 60 votes needed to bring HR 4213 to a vote, he noted.

If lawmakers don’t extend the deadline until after June 30, the language in both the House and Senate bills would apply retroactively.

Realtors had also hoped that another provision of HR 4213, retroactively extending the National Flood Insurance Program, would become law.

The expiration of the program on May 31 has derailed many home closings. The substitute amendment to HR 4213 does not retain language extending the flood insurance program, though the Senate could vote on standalone legislation to extend that program as soon as today. The House already approved a standalone bill (HR 5569) on that issue in a June 23 voice vote. NAR is pressing the Senate to take action on that legislation.

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