DeMint Sets His Sights on Housing Legislation

Posted June 25, 2008 at 2:13pm

As the negotiators on the housing bill scramble to deal with what amendments to include in the massive legislation, another battle is brewing that may delay the housing measure altogether.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that he believes that the Senate must take its time with the housing bill, perhaps delaying a vote until after the break.

“There are too many questions out there. … I think it would beneficial that we take a fresh look at it after the break,” DeMint said.

DeMint emphasized that he is not “holding up the bill,” but since the White House has taken a hard line against it, he believes that it might as well go through all the procedural hoops before a final tally is taken.

Specifically, DeMint is threatening to force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to jump through all the time-consuming procedural hoops that are normally waived on a bill that more than 80 Senators support. That means Reid will have to decide whether to file at least two more motions to limit debate,or invoke cloture, on different aspects of the bill, a process that would not likely end until Saturday or Sunday.

The South Carolina Republican said he wants to “make sure that we have the full debate time on every aspect of this. I don’t think we need to pass it this week before the break, so I don’t intend to allow unanimous consents to shorten the debate time on this bill.”

DeMint said it would probably be “Saturday or Sunday” if Reid wants to make the Senate jump through all the procedural tangles to pass the measure.

For the past week, many GOP Senators have questioned the financial benefit that mortgage house Countrywide would receive in the bill, particularly on the heels of controversy surrounding favorable mortgages received from the lender by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the housing bill’s chief sponsor, and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

DeMint has threatened to block the bill for some weeks now, arguing that Senators do not fully understand the benefits provided to such financial institutions as Countrywide.

Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he did not want to make the housing bill go through a procedural dance in order to pass it. But he did warn that the Senate will not move to other important legislation unless the housing bill gets done.

Reid’s threat seems to have fallen on deaf ears, however, as DeMint said that he was going to slow the process down and allow lawmakers on his side of the aisle to voice their opposition.

Emily Pierce contributed to this report.