Democrats Unveil Housing Plan; Republicans Pounce

Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:46pm

House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a major housing package that is already drawing the ire of Republicans for provisions that would allow judges to modify home mortgages during bankruptcy. The foreclosure prevention bill, a top priority for the Obama administration, rolls together bankruptcy legislation that previously passed the House Judiciary Committee and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. bills recently marked up in the House Financial Services Committee. House leaders are aiming to take up the package on Wednesday night in the Rules Committee and consider it on the floor on Thursday. Ruffled by the bill’s proposed bankruptcy modifications, a handful of key Republicans fired off a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warning against bailing out irresponsible borrowers at the expense of responsible homeowners. “We got into this mess by giving home loans to individuals who couldn’t afford them. Now, we’re giving those same irresponsible borrowers a ‘bankruptcy bailout’ by allowing them to reduce the amount of money they owe on their homes,” Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (Texas) said. Smith cautioned against creating “a bad precedent” and “dangerous incentives” by using taxpayer dollars to aid homeowners facing foreclosure as a result of “bad decisions.” The letter, also signed by Financial Services ranking member Spencer Bachus (Ala.), Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.), describes the bankruptcy proposal as “moral hazard run amok.” At the very least, they say, bankruptcy modifications should not apply to two-thirds of outstanding mortgages.