HOUSING CRISIS -- (Senate - March 03, 2008)
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, last week the Senate squandered an opportunity to bring timely help to homeowners rather than propose a bipartisan plan targeted at those most in need. Our friends on the other side proposed a plan that would have helped some by increasing monthly mortgage payments on everyone else who owns a home. They checked the political box, knowing their plan wouldn't have broad bipartisan support. Then we walked away from the problem, leaving it unaddressed. It is my hope this week to bring our friends back to the table so the two parties can work together on addressing a crisis that did not go away over the weekend. America's economy is indeed slowing. A lot of families are struggling, and we need to work together without any more political posturing to help families most in need without harming other families or our long-term economic health.
Last week, Republicans proposed a variety of measures aimed, first of all, at helping those who need it most. The Treasury Department is already working on a number of major lenders to see what can be done by keeping certain mortgages from driving families from their homes. Republicans support these efforts to help families, not bailouts for banks and speculators who are losing money on a bad financial bet.
Many families that are making their payments on time are worried about the value of their properties going down, or of the crime rate going up in places where the foreclosure rate is high. To help them, Republicans are proposing a major tax credit for people who buy foreclosed homes in hard-hit areas, provided they intend to live in them.
State and local housing financing agencies are well-positioned to help families that are on the verge of foreclosure. That is why the Bush administration has proposed that State and local entities issue $10 billion in tax exempt bonds and then use the proceeds to refinance mortgages that are most at risk.
The centerpiece of the Democrat plan to aid struggling homeowners is to let bankruptcy judges refinance the terms of their mortgages. This, as I have indicated and as the Chicago Tribune editorialized over the weekend, might temporarily help some. But it would also lead to higher monthly mortgage payments for everyone else.
In California, where the housing crisis is most acute, mortgages for families that are making their monthly payments on time would potentially go up by nearly $4,000 a year. Homeowners in New York and some other States would potentially see payments go up by nearly $3,000. Homeowners in Oldham County, KY--to bring it home to my State--would see their monthly payments go up $2,100 a year.
It is not fair to penalize those who do make their payments in an effort to help those who can't. This is a principle Republicans are proud to defend.
Republicans believe the best way to ensure the long-term economic well-being of all homeowners and to create new opportunities for future homeowners is to stimulate the economy, help people keep their jobs, and to help workers keep more of what they earn.
That is why, in this economy, the Senate should act quickly to remove any fear that families have about paying the looming AMT tax. We know we will patch the loophole that puts this target on the backs of millions of middle-class taxpayers. Let us reject the political posturing and patch it now, without raising taxes, so families have one less thing to worry about.
In this economy, the Senate should also remove any uncertainty about the future status of tax credits that have helped millions of American families over the last few years.
We should extend the child tax credit which saves 44 million families an average of about $2,500 annually.
We should extend a ban on the marriage penalty so young couples don't get hit with a tax just for wanting to start a family.
We should extend the research and development tax credit, which is one of the most effective tools we have in keeping America at the leading edge of technology and in creating and retaining high-paying, high-quality jobs.
We should extend renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits, which are a proven incentive for increasing the use of wind, solar, biomass, and other alternative forms of energy and a sure way to lower our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And we should do this too without raising taxes.
Next week, as we debate the budget resolution, we will see very clearly the vision our friends on the other side have for America's economy--a vision of higher taxes, so Washington can spend more of Americans' tax dollars, more regulation, and more litigation.
At a time of economic uncertainty, this approach would be a grave mistake. In the coming weeks, Republicans will offer a different vision based on a strategy for maintaining our Nation's long-term economic strength and competitiveness.
This is a debate we obviously are anxious to have.
Hopefully, as the majority leader indicated, we will have an opportunity to revisit the housing issue with some kind of agreement that is fair to both sides and gives us an opportunity to actually accomplish something in this important area.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the Washington Post just this morning--and I think we can all stipulate the Washington Post is not exactly a mouthpiece for Republicans or conservatism--began their editorial related to the housing issue this way:
It's much easier to identify well-intentioned housing policy proposals that might make a situation worse than to craft ones that will help. An example is the Democratic plan.
This is the Washington Post this morning taking a look at the proposal my good friend, the majority leader, discussed extolling the virtues of.
Now, look, there is a great opportunity to make matters worse. A good way to avoid that is to continue the discussions we can have not actually out here on the floor but the kind of discussions we have every day about a process for getting some kind of bipartisan approach on this bill.
I noted with interest that my good friend, the majority leader, the other day had his chart up with 72 filibusters on it. He is setting a record of his own, voting to cut off debate the first day a bill or resolution reaches the floor more than any previous majority leader, Republican or Democrat. During the first session of the 110th Congress, Senator Reid filed cloture on the same day a bill or resolution was introduced nine times. This is three times more than Majority Leaders Frist, Daschle, Lott, Mitchell, and BYRD ever did in a first session of Congress and nine times more than in the first session of the 109th Congress.
Among these 72 Republican filibusters--and I guess, by the way, the vote this afternoon, which is probably going to be close to unanimous, will also make the list of filibusters and make it 73--includes Democratic filibusters--for example, Senator Dodd's filibuster of the FISA bill last year; Democrats' filibuster of the McConnell-Stevens troop funding bill last November; Democrats' filibuster of Judge Leslie Southwick. Cloture motions that were filed by Republicans in an effort to end Democratic obstruction are also included. In fact, on more than half of the 72 Republican filibusters, Senate Democrats either voted to filibuster or voted with Republicans. On five of the filibusters, the vote was unanimous. On four of the filibusters, Democrats nearly unanimously voted against cloture themselves. Half the votes described as filibusters were actually successful votes where cloture was invoked and the bill was actually moved forward.
So if we are going to talk about this kind of thing, we at least need to get our facts right. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own sets of facts. Those are the facts related to times in which we have had cloture votes in this 110th Congress.
So, Mr. President, back on the issue of housing, I think the best way forward, obviously--even though the Washington Post this morning is suggesting maybe we should delay for a while and see whether the administration's efforts produce some positive results--I think the best way forward in the Senate, as always, is to sit down and talk about some kind of process for going forward. I think the majority leader and I can do that as we do every day on every issue. I would look forward to having further discussions with him on how we might go forward and maybe come up with a bipartisan housing bill that will actually improve the situation.
I yield the floor.
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