During the start of floor debate, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., urged lawmakers to work quickly on the measure already approved in the House.
The bill would provide tax credit and refinancing options for homeowners, oversight to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan programs, and modernize the Federal Housing Administration. It also would allow the FHA to provide guaranteed financed loans for at-risk mortgages, among other things.
"This is the issue of the hour," said Dodd, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. "We bear the responsibility to offer a future of some hope and this housing proposal gives us a chance to do that."
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the ranking committee Republican, said the bill would "give a lot of people in America a chance to refinance their mortgages" and doesn't bail out banks or mortgage companies.
White House news secretary Dana Perino said President George Bush thinks the Senate bill has some "good aspects" and that the administration is working with Congress to modify the bill so he could sign it. Bush earlier threatened a veto.