Thursday, June 26, 2008

Housing Bill Not Signed

You can read and hear the story of the latest Congressional foul up over the housing bill here, on National Public Radio's show Marketplace or over at Reuters.

  1. Help homeowners facing foreclosure by assisting them with a refinance, or getting banks to write down some loan balances,

  2. Offer incentives to first time home buyers who want to buy currently vacant homes (many foreclosure properties sit vacant and risk becoming blight in the community), and

  3. Implement some new regulatons on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government regulated lending behemoths

Apparently, our US Senators have not signed this bill today as originally thought and intended. Instead, they spent the day haggling over whether to add energy tax breaks to the bill. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted the bill passed today (and most sources say it would have), but Republican Senator John Ensign wouldn't let the bill go to a vote without the addition of his pet project, $7 billion in renewable energy tax cuts.

Encouraging the use of renewable energy sources is a laudable, noble goal. But what has it to do with the foreclosure crisis? Nothing. Senator Ensign is trying to tack his tax credit bill onto the foreclosure assistance bill simply because he knows foreclosure assistance will pass, and his tax credits plan likely wouldn't, unless it is attached to a popular, will-pass measure.

American homeowners are hurting, and badly in many places. I don't often like to sound like I'm commenting on politics here. It isn't the place. But this is just truly depressing news. It seems our elected officials still don't get it. Some of them would still rather wrangle and scrap over pet projects with little chance of success than get behind a much-needed bill that was sure to pass anyway and will help tens of thousands of truly hurting Americans. 

By the time the Senate returns from the Independence Day holiday to deal with this bill again, tens of thousands more Americans will have received a foreclosure notice on their home. The bill will almost certainly pass, even with Ensign's tack-on tax credits. For shame, Senators. I wonder which of Ensign's 'close friends' and business associates stand to benefit from the $7 billion he's going to hand out for renewable energy sources?

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