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Winograd to Harman: Why Did You Vote NO on Mortgage Relief?

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Headlined to H3 12/15/09

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My Blue Dog opponent refuses to debate me. I am ready and willing - and I have a question for Jane Harman: Why did you side with Republicans to defeat a mortgage-relief amendment to the financial overhaul bill? With several thousand people in our district (CA-36) facing foreclosure, we're looking at neighborhoods from West Los Angeles to San Pedro turning from beauty to blight. It behooves everyone in Congress to demand that big banks, the overnight recipients of billion-dollar bail-outs, renegotiate loans in bankruptcy court. After all, we must remember these banks, the ones we bailed out, caused the financial meltdown with predatory sub-prime lending. Harman voted with a coalition of Republicans and corporate Blue Dog Democrats to water down the legislation by excluding language (the "cram-down" amendment) that would have allowed homeowners, saddled with debt and underwater equity, to renegotiate their home loan in bankruptcy court. Here's what THOMAS has on House Amendment 534 to House Resolution 4173:
H.AMDT.534 to H.R.4173 An amendment numbered 19 printed in House Report 111-370 to allow bankruptcy courts to extend repayment periods, reduce excessive interest rates and fees, and adjust the principal balance of the mortgage to a home's fair market value as necessary to prevent foreclosure and revised to allow the VA, FHA, and RHS to take steps to facilitate mortgage modifications. The amendment is substantively identical to title I, subtitle A and sections 121-123 of subtitle B of H.R. 1106 (Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009), which passed the House on March 5, 2009.
Latest Major Action: 12/11/2009 House amendment not agreed to. Status: On agreeing to the Marshall amendment (A018) Failed by recorded vote: 188 - 241 (Roll no. 963).
According to a December 7, 2009 House Judciary Committee press release the cram-down amendment was co-sponsored by John Conyers, Michael Turner, Zoe Lofgren, Jim Marshall, Maxine Waters, Steve Cohen, Brad Miller, Bill Delahunt, and Jerrold Nadler. Harman's supporters claim she voted against the cram-down amendment as procedural protest because the Rules Committee had excluded an amendment she offered that would have provided relief to former IndyMac Bank customers - that procedural protest vote (cast on December 10th) does not exempt Harman from criticism of her NO vote on mortgage relief. Because the fact remains that the December 11th vote was not a procedural vote. It was a real vote on a real issue that makes life incredibly tough for real people facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. Bankruptcy judges are now allowed to modify loan terms on bankers' vacation or investment properties in Hawaii or Vail, but not on my district's primary residences in Wilmington, a Latino community beset with foreclosures, situated at the intersection of oil refineries, sewage treatment plants, and diesel exhaust fumes from the Port of Los Angeles. I toured north Wilmington this weekend and saw the abundance of homes teetering on foreclosure.

It wasn't always this way. Homeowners of primary residences were eligible for loan modification in bankruptcy court prior to the passage of the 2005 bankruptcy bill. Jane Harman voted for that bill. We want representatives who truly represent us, working men and women -- not Wall Street or million-dollar CEO's spending weekends on their yachts. Once again, however, my Blue Dog opponent, who also voted for the mean-spirited bankruptcy bill, sides with big corporations against the people of our district.

While thousands of homeowners from West Los Angeles to San Pedro face foreclosure, not only on their home but on the American Dream, Harman votes to slam the door in their face, to essentially kick them out of their living room. The vote was 241-188 to reject the mortgage relief amendment, with Harman joining 71 conservative Democrats and 170 Republicans in rejecting mortgage relief. Had the amendment been included in the final bill, homeowners under the supervision of a bankruptcy judge would have been allowed to extend a mortgage repayment term, reduce sky-high high interest rates and exorbitant hidden fees, and, under limited circumstances, adjust the principal to fair market value.

Now that last one is a biggie, considering the millions of homes bought at inflated prices during the real estate bubble. Why should banks receive billions in bail-out money, refuse to renegotiate home loans, and then get a pass in bankruptcy court? In Congress I will work to strengthen the Progressive Caucus, to work with progressive caucuses in each state party, so that together we can create the political will to successfully reintroduce the amendment my opponent voted down.

I want to ensure working families, the American middle class, the people facing foreclosure in Wilmington, that they can renegotiate their home loans to enjoy a stable and secure future. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, there were 7, 526 foreclosures in the 36th congressional district in 2009. The Center projects an additional 25, 053 foreclosures within the next four years.

Less than 1.5 million of the 3.2 million homeowners targeted by the Obama administration for home loan modifications and mortgage relief are likely to qualify for the Home Affordable Modification Program, according to Herb Allison, the U.S. Treasury Department's assistant secretary for financial stability, who testified recently before the House Financial Services Committee.


Over a million Americans risk losing their homes. Unless Congress makes it possible for banks to renegotiate primary residence loans in bankruptcy court, we face dramatic ripple effects dwindling property tax revenue, abandoned crime-ridden neighborhoods, and more homeless families struggling on our streets. We need relief - not only in bankruptcy court but also in Congress. Blue Dogs, step aside. It's the people's turn. Please help me defeat a Blue Dog whose votes are pushing people out of their homes. You can make the difference.


I'm Marcy Winograd and I'm challenging Blue Dog corporate Democrat Jane Harman in the June 8, 2010 Democratic Party primary. In 2006, when I jumped into the race just three months before the primary, I mobilized almost 38% of the vote.

 

Marcy Winograd is founder of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles. She's a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and the 2010 candidate for the United States Congress in California's 36th Congressional District
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