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Obama’s Housing Plan Skips Congress

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama greets people Monday after disembarking from Air Force One at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Obama chose the foreclosure-ridden area to announce his new housing policies to help boost the economy.

“Obviously lawmakers on the Hill wouldn’t consider this is a cure-all and would be interested in working with the administration on greater initiatives,” one senior Democratic aide said. “Any attempt legislatively to get the economy going has to consider the housing market.”

And Democratic sources seemed to echo the idea that housing issues have become an increasingly larger part of the caucus’s dialogue because Members “worry about how sustainable this recovery that we’re supposedly in is” and believe that without addressing the continuing foreclosure crisis, economic gains — especially for the middle class — could stagnate or even reverse.

Republicans also have been harshly critical of how the president has handled the housing dilemma.

“‘We Can’t Wait’ is way too late,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) quipped. McHenry called the announcement just the latest in a “floundering strategy” that has “done more harm than good.”

The White House, while touting the new initiative, also tried not to oversell it, declining to estimate how many people would benefit.

At best, the new rules may provide a modest boost to the economy, helping homeowners save several billion dollars a year in interest after they refinance. But it’s not enough on its own to turn around the housing market, the White House acknowledged.

“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. There is no simple fundamental restructuring that will wipe away the damage done by the bursting of the housing bubble,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

The move did get some bipartisan applause from Congress. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) praised the proposal, but said: “We must not stop here. Economists warn that the housing crisis is ground zero for the economy and jobs, and this is only one modest step toward addressing it.”

Cummings and Cardoza had led an effort in the House to put pressure on the administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to approve a bolder plan to spur the housing market.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) jointly praised the new rules, which they said reflect proposals from a bipartisan bill that they authored. Americans who have been making their payments every month “deserve the benefit of today’s lower interest rates,” Isakson said.

But perhaps more importantly for the White House, taking the administrative route avoids the morass of trying to get anything significant through Congress and helps the administration argue that Obama’s taking action and not just waiting for the legislative wheels to turn.

Still, don’t expect the president to stop pushing for his stalled jobs bill anytime soon.

“The only way we can put hundreds of thousands of people back to work right now is with bold action from Congress,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to keep forcing these Senators to vote on common-sense, paid-for jobs proposals.”

A House GOP aide, however, said Obama has been running around the country campaigning instead of working with Republicans on bipartisan approaches to jobs.

“With 14 million people out of work, Republicans understand that we can’t wait, and we have acted by passing 15 bipartisan job-creating bills that are currently stalled in the Senate,” the aide said. “If the president agrees that ‘we can’t wait,’ then we’d ask him to join us to pass these common-sense, bipartisan solutions.”

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