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[Washington Babylon]

Congress Stiffs Troubled Mortgage Holders

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With swine flu, the retirement of David Souter, and the bankruptcy of Chrysler, the media didn’t devote much space to the Senate screwing nearly two million mortgage holders yesterday. The Washington Post offered only a business brief about it in today’s paper:

Legislation that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages died in the Senate yesterday, handing the Obama administration a significant defeat in its plans to mitigate the foreclosure crisis.

Supporters argued that the measure would have kept 1.7 million borrowers in their homes. It foundered in the face of fierce opposition from the financial industry and Republicans. The legislation, offered as an amendment to a broader housing bill, failed by a vote of 45 to 51.

The measure would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify troubled mortgages, lowering the interest rate or principal balance through a process known as a cramdown.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) had negotiated with Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo for weeks, hoping their support would bridge the gap. However, even after the proposal was weakened significantly, the financial services industry refused to support it.

Incidentally, 12 Democrats joined with Republicans to kill the measure. “Democrats who received large contributions from the mortgage banking industry and opposed the cram-down amendment included Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana with $25,400, Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota with $23,500 and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana with $18,000,” the Washington Times reported.

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