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RISMEDIA, June 12, 2009-Lawmakers are pushing to revive legislation in the Senate that would almost double an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and expand the program to all borrowers.

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, plans to introduce a bill this week that increases the tax credit to $15,000 and removes income and other restrictions on who can qualify for the credit, according to his spokesman, Sheridan Watson.

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and other Democrats, would extend the home buyer credit to multi-family properties that are used as the borrower’s primary residence. It would also eliminate income caps of $75,000 and $150,000 on individuals and couples seeking to claim the credit.

“The housing market continues to be a drag on the economy, said John Castellani, president of the Washington-based Business Roundtable, which represents the interests of more than 100 CEOs including General Electric Co.’s Jeffrey Immelt and Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Rex Tillerson. “We believe that if we don’t stabilize this vital sector, we can’t turn the tide on the recession.”

The Business Roundtable and the National Association of Realtors are both pushing to expand the tax credit and to lower mortgage rates to revive the U.S. housing market.

Isakson’s bill would extend the credit, which expires at the end of 2009, to one year after it’s signed into law, according to Watson. It would also allow borrowers to divide the credit over two years. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, David Vitter of Louisiana and James Risch of Idaho.

Senators Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, have also signed on to the bill, according to Watson.
Mortgage Rates

The roundtable and Realtors groups also recommended the Federal Reserve continue its plans to purchase mortgage securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks to drive down mortgage rates below 5%.

The Fed is about a third of the way through its $1.25 trillion commitment, holding $427.6 billion of mortgage debt backed by the government-sponsored enterprises as of June 3, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate U.S. mortgage jumped last week to the highest level since November, rising to 5.57% from 5.25% the prior week, according to data released today by the Mortgage Bankers Association.