Sen. Johnny Isakson has introduced an amendment to the Energy and water development appropriations bill to ensure that American taxpayers are repaid first if a recipient of a loan guarantee issued by the Department of Energy goes into default.
Gun rights and housing industry advocates are poised for legislative victories if a major spending bill clears Congress this week, and they are working diligently to help get the minibus package across the finish line.
“There are 12 critical protections for gun owners that are included and that is why we are supporting the package,” National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Chris Cox said. “We have communicated our support to the leadership and directly to Members.”
The minibus is likely to be considered by the House today. If it passes, it will be sent to the Senate, which is expected to act on the measure before adjourning this evening for a weeklong Thanksgiving recess.
Cox pointed to three provisions in particular that would be made law under the minibus: language that would prohibit the Justice Department from consolidating firearms sales records, from electronically retrieving the records of former firearms dealers and from disclosing information on people who have passed firearms background checks.
The bill includes a host of one-year gun protections and new language barring the Justice Department from requiring imported shotguns to meet a “sporting purposes” test. The legislation also bars the use of funds to transfer the functions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to other agencies and to promulgate or implement any rule requiring a physical inventory of any licensed firearms business.
The measure directs ATF to report to the Appropriations committees on the total number of firearms recovered by the government of Mexico, including those for which an ATF trace is attempted and those determined to be manufactured in the United States. The provision comes as Republicans have criticized the 2009 Phoenix-based “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation targeting Mexican drug cartels. Officials lost guns used in the sting — some of which were later connected to crimes including the murder of a Border Patrol agent.
Realtors and home builders are backing the minibus because it also includes language that increases the mortgage amount the Federal Housing Administration can insure to $729,750.
“From a policy perspective, what makes us the most happy is the reinstitution of the higher FHA single-family loan limit,” National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard said. “Raising those loan limits back to what they were prior to the end of September sends a very strong message that Congress is finally acknowledging that the housing [industry] can’t take any more body blows.”
After being raised in response to the financial industry crisis in 2008, the limits fell back to $625,500 with the start of fiscal 2012 on Oct. 1. Howard said that keeping the limits at the higher levels will help spur home sales and stabilize the housing market and, by extension, the overall economy.
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