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Emergency Mortgage Relief Program Termination Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman from Florida is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 836, the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program Termination Act.

This legislation, like the other war on affordable housing bills being brought to the floor by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, seems to terminate a much needed Federal program that helps struggling homeowners. To be clear, shutting down a badly needed foreclosure mitigation assistance program is not a solution to Federal deficits and will simply hurt homeowners and the current economic recovery.

Rather than turning our backs on homeowners, we should be working together to improve and expand programs to help the millions of Americans and communities affected by the housing crisis all over our Nation.

For several years now, many Americans have struggled with foreclosures, underwater mortgages, and abandoned and blighted properties. For local towns and cities, this crisis has also decimated their tax base, leading to a ripple-up effect producing funding shortfalls for basic services like police, firefighters, and teachers. This creates deficits at every level of government.

I keep hearing from my Republican colleagues that the debt is crushing Americans and we must act now. Well, what about the crushing debt of negative equity facing almost a quarter of all homeowners in this country? Nearly one-fourth of all Americans owe more on their mortgages than their homes are now worth. There are nearly 11 million families who feel trapped in their homes, unable to sell or move if they wanted to, or even to refinance to lock in a better interest rate. And the statistics in my home State of Florida are far more staggering than the national average. Forty-five percent of all mortgages in Florida are underwater. In Broward County, where I live, that number is more than 50 percent. Yes, over half. More help is needed, not less.

However, what is offered today is a ``repeal and abandon'' approach, leaving homeowners with few or no options. This is simply unacceptable. For 10 weeks now, the House Republican leadership has failed to bring to the floor a single piece of legislation to create jobs despite making occasional casual references to jobs.

What they've done instead is push legislation that will destroy jobs--just like the spending bill we pushed through the House a few weeks ago that would cost our economy 700,000 jobs. These housing bills risk further injury to our economic growth.

Now, I can appreciate the arguments that the current housing programs have not done enough to help homeowners, and I agree. But that's why I support legislation offered by Congressman Cardoza to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance underwater mortgages so homeowners struggling to stay out of foreclosure can better afford to stay in their homes.

And that's why I support taking a hard look at how we can improve the current Federal programs so more homeowners receive assistance.

But my Republican colleagues have no plan to helping make housing more affordable or keeping people in their homes--nor will they. That's because they believe the lending industry will take care of it. For those with short memories, that's the same laissez faire approach that caused the Wall Street meltdown in the first place.

The Republican leadership began the 112th Congress with a lot of fanfare by reading the Constitution on the floor of the House. Well, it's not enough to simply read the Constitution, but to abide by it and carry out its charge. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution vests the Congress with a duty to provide for the general welfare and to regulate commerce.

However, over the decade leading up to this housing crisis, the Congress simply abandoned its duty to the American public. Lax Federal regulations and oversight led to an ``anything-goes'' attitude. Banks were making subprime loans people couldn't really afford and then bundling these loans and selling them off, eventually becoming toxic assets that crashed our financial markets.

We owe more to our constituents than Speaker Boehner's ``so be it'' attitude. We must do more than just stand by and say the lending industry will take care of this crisis. A foreclosure has a devastating effect on each and every homeowner and tears at the very fabric of the family.

Saying you support family values is mere lip service unless you take actions to value the family by striving to keep families intact with a roof over their heads.

That is why I support the amendments offered by many of my Democratic colleagues--most of which have been ruled non-germane because, as far as I can tell, they propose helping too many homeowners. Apparently, any Federal effort that would help more than zero homeowners is simply too broad and unacceptable to the authors of this legislation.

Perhaps this boils down to a fundamental disagreement of our role in looking out for our constituents and assisting at the Federal level.

The Democratic minority remains committed to our goals for the 112th Congress--to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and responsibly reduce the deficit. We will continue to judge each of your bills by this standard.

The legislation before us today fails on all three counts, and I urge my colleagues to vote against it.


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