Foreclosure aid overwhelmingly clears Senate test, on track to final vote

;WASHINGTON (AP) – A massive foreclosure rescue bill cleared a key Senate test Tuesday by an overwhelming margin, with Democrats and Republicans both eager to claim election-year credit for helping hard-pressed homeowners.

The mortgage aid plan would let the Federal Housing Administration back $300 billion in new, cheaper home loans for an estimated 400,000 distressed borrowers who otherwise would be considered too financially risky to qualify for government-insured, fixed-rate loans.

An 83-9 vote put the plan on track for Senate passage as early as Wednesday, but President Bush is threatening a veto, and Democrats are fighting each other over key details. Those challenges will probably delay any final deal until mid-July.

The bill advanced as separate reports underscored rising economic anxiety: Consumer confidence slid to its lowest level in more than 16 years, and closely watched indices showed a continuing decline in home values.

At the Capitol, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee chairman, said the lending measure “would allow us to begin to put a tourniquet on the hemorrhaging of foreclosures in this country.”