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Obama's Courageous Stand on Foreclosure

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Chris Smith carries out his family's belongings during eviction from his foreclosed home in Adams County, Colorado, 02/02/09. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama today made good his pledge to use the power of the Oval Office to help American homeowners. Obama refused to sign legislation specifically crafted to protect lenders involved in record numbers of home foreclosures, and stymie efforts by homeowners and their attorneys to challenge documents in those foreclosure actions.

While public attention and media coverage has been drawn in recent days to the issue of foreclosure document-doctoring by mortgage lenders, including some of the nation's largest, Congress was quietly crafting legislation that would have given the protection of federal law to the very documents at the center of the storm.

The "Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act," first passed by the House in April of this year, sat quietly in the Senate Judiciary Committee until the day before Congress recessed for their midterm-election break. On September 27, with little media coverage, public attention or public debate in the Senate, the bill was unexpectedly brought to the floor and passed.

Reminiscent of modifications made in 2008 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that provided retroactive immunity to giant American telecommunications companies for their participation in Bush-era domestic electronic surveillance, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act appears custom-crafted to validate retroactively mortgage foreclosure documents that many states' attorney generals fear may be fraudulent.

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At the center of the recent firestorm are what are alleged to be flawed foreclosure documents. Challenges to those documents are the basis for foreclosure defense actions in many states. The Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act would have forced state courts to ignore many of the most commonly cited flaws in foreclosure documents, potentially streamlining and accelerating the already record pace of US families' home foreclosures.

Flawed documents, experts say, may only be a symptom of the larger, more tangled web of so-called "securitized mortgages," mortgage notes bundled into Wall Street investments - the very investments at the heart of the nation's economic crisis.

In refusing to sign the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act, President Obama broke with his own party's leadership on legislation successfully passed by both Democratically controlled houses of Congress. It was a bold and principled stand by a president often maligned by party activists for failing to act forcefully enough on issues of passionate concern to the party's base, and often touted by the president himself.

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For Obama, locked in a pitched battle to preserve congressional majorities for his party and his agenda, this decisive stand is sure to resonate with homeowners across the nation, regardless of party affiliation. For a presidency struggling to define itself, Mr. Obama's demur is a gauntlet thrown down.

Original article in Reader Supported News

 

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News: http://www.readersupportednews.org

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