From the WP Writers Group via the U-T:


Here’s a quick overview: Though Congress technically is on its summer break, most members of the Senate and House use part of the August recess to meet with and listen to constituents back in their home districts.

This year, the two biggest housing trade groups — the 1.2 million-member National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders — are spending the month mounting unusually intense grass-roots lobbying campaigns to make the case for extending the credit, and maybe even expanding it.

On a national basis, according to economists at the National Association of Realtors, anywhere from 300,000 to 350,000 additional sales of houses will be stimulated this year by the credit. Each home sale generates approximately $63,000 in downstream “ripple effects” elsewhere in the economy, they say — sales of furnishings, appliances, lawn mowers, landscaping, renovation materials, plus moving expenses.

If you accept the numbers — and some analysts consider them a stretch — this means the housing credit provides a powerful, immediate stimulus bang for the buck. Failure to extend what may be one of the most effective pieces of the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus legislation would cost jobs, economic growth and tax revenues, the housing groups argue.

There are some early signs Congress may be getting the message. Bills already are pending in both houses to extend the credit for another year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., whose state has been among the worst hit by the housing bust, reportedly now favors an extension of the credit. He was quoted to that effect by the Las Vegas Sun on Aug. 5, adding, “It’s something we can get done.”

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and in a tight race for re-election next year, is co-sponsoring a bill with Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson that would raise the credit amount to a maximum of $15,000. Meanwhile, both the Realtors and the builders are pushing not only for extension of the credit, but for broadening it to cover all home purchases in 2010.

In the end, however, given the political economics of the housing credit, the odds favor some sort of extension, probably later rather than sooner. Don’t bank on a bigger credit, however, or broadening the concept to cover all purchasers next year.

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