President Obama has made it clear that he wants to work with conservatives on putting together an economic recovery package. He has agreed to accept business tax cuts in the package and today met personally with House GOP leaders. But from the beginning, conservatives made up their minds to oppose the economic recovery package, no matter the concessions. Since that time, they have been grasping at straws to justify this position: too few corporate tax cuts, objections to revitalizing the National Mall, and opposition to a family planning provision.
Today, Roll Call reports that conservatives’ newest line of attack will be on housing — specifically, that there isn’t enough addressing this crisis in the economic recovery package:
Republicans now appear set to draw their line in the sand over the issue. One senior Senate GOP aide said Republicans were coalescing Monday evening around a plan to demand that Obama and Congressional Democrats reconfigure the stimulus to help mitigate foreclosures and spur buyers to invest in new homes.
“Republicans are increasingly concerned that the stimulus bill is leaving the housing crisis out of the equation,” the aide said.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is not supposed to focus on housing. Instead, its key areas are: energy, science and technology, health care, education, infrastructure, tax cuts, and helping workers hurt by the recession.
The Obama administration and Democratic leaders aren’t planning to ignore housing, however; they are attempting to address the foreclosure crisis through separate legislation. Last Wednesday, the House passed Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) legislation. As the Gavel pointed out, a key part of this legislation — in addition to stabilizing the financial markets — was helping Americans stay in their homes. Some provisions that were included:
— “Calls on Treasury to immediately commit up to $100 billion (with a mandatory minimum of $40 billion) of the second $350 billion TARP funding on a comprehensive foreclosure mitigation plan (to be developed by Treasury by March 15 and implemented by April 1).”
— “Makes changes to the Hope for Homeowners refinancing program to encourage more lenders to refinance home loans for borrowers at risk of losing their homes.”
— “Mandates that the foreclosure mitigation plan include at least $20 billion for a systematic program to guarantee loan modifications to help families in danger of losing their homes.”
Conservatives seem to be the ones actually “leaving the housing crisis out of the equation.” Only 18 Republicans voted for the TARP legislation; 156 voted against it. Last summer, conservatives also put up a vicious fight against Democratic-sponsored housing legislation.
As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo pointed out, the economic plan House Republicans delivered to Obama last week included a $7,500 home-buyers credit intended to “encourage responsible buyers to enter the market and stabilize [housing] prices.” This, however, wasn’t a real effort to address the housing crisis, but rather a gift to the real estate industry. More on why here.