HUD Secretary Hits Back at Cardoza Over Travel Budget

Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:54pm

Updated: 3:31 p.m.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan is firing back at Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) for criticizing the Obama administration’s efforts to stem foreclosures and for trying to slash his $21 million travel budget.

Donovan emerged from a Thursday meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — which includes Cardoza — signaling that no progress has been made to ease his standoff with the California Democrat, who has been railing against him all week for not doing enough to help with the foreclosure crisis plaguing his district. Cardoza, whose district faces a 20 percent unemployment rate, has said more people in his district have lost their homes than those who lost their homes nationwide during the Depression.

“I don’t think he’s got the facts right,” Donovan said. He cited a new report released Thursday by RealtyTrac indicating that, over the past six months, “the single place in the country where foreclosures have decreased the most is Merced, in his district.”

The data also reveal that there has been “a substantial decrease in foreclosures” in every part of Cardoza’s district, with Merced seeing a 35 percent decline and other areas ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent declines. In part, those declines are “because we have been very active on the issue of foreclosures,” the HUD secretary said.

The California Democrat later dismissed Donovan’s use of the data as proof that the administration’s programs are working since his district’s 90-day delinquency rate is up by 3 percent from last year.

“Based on Secretary Donovan’s logic, we will have complete victory over the foreclose crisis when 100 percent of the families in California’s 18th district have been put out on the street and we can tout a zero foreclosure rate,” he said.

Donovan also took aim at Cardoza for bringing an amendment to the floor later Thursday that would eliminate the HUD travel budget for 2011 — a move that Cardoza said is aimed at sending HUD officials the message that they should “just plant their butts at their desk and do the job that they were appointed to do.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to hurt the very people we’re trying to help by cutting this travel funding. That is funding that goes to do foreclosure counseling events and a whole range of others things that are exactly the kinds of things we ought to be doing in his district,” Donovan said.

He added: “To me it sort of looks like he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.”

Cardoza said after the meeting that he is pressing forward with his amendment “with more vigor than I’ve pressed it before” because he is still offended by HUD officials taking a trip to Rio de Janeiro earlier this year while “millions of people were losing their homes.”

In addition, he said, “I want to cause them a little personal pain.”

But the HUD secretary said the only personal pain Cardoza will cause with his amendment “is to people in his district and to other low-income people around the country who won’t benefit from services, if it goes through.”

A Democratic aide said Cardoza’s amendment to the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill is expected to come up for debate around 3 p.m. Thursday.