President Obama holds a proposed mortgage application in Falls Church, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012.
President Obama holds a proposed mortgage application in Falls Church, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Cliff Owen/AP
When President Obama on Wednesday said at an event to promote an administration proposal to help pinched homeowners: "But it is wrong for anybody to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom," he clearly had someone in mind.
Actually, he likely had a few people in his sights, Mitt Romney for one. In Las Vegas last year, the Republican presidential candidate said foreclosures should be allowed to happen to let the housing market clear much of the existing excess real-estate inventory.
The others were congressional Republicans who are likely to block Obama's latest legislative proposal outright. Asked about Obama's plan for the federal government to help certain homeowners gain refinancing, Speaker John Boehner said:
"We've done this at least four times where there's some new government program to help homeowners who have trouble with their mortgages. None of these programs have worked. And I don't know why anyone would think this next idea is going to work. And all they've done is delay the clearing of the market.
"The sooner the market clears and we understand where the prices really are, it will be the most important thing we can do in order to improve home values around the country."
Romney actually did say last year that foreclosures should be allowed to happen. But he also appeared open to the idea of providing refinancing assistance, presumably for homeowners still current on their mortgage payments.
In a meeting with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Journal Review last October, Romney said:
"I think the idea of helping people refinance homes to stay in them is one that's worth further consideration. But I'm not signing on until I find out who;s going to pay and who's going to get bailed out. In that sense, I'm not sure we know all the answers yet."
Obama's remarks on his mortgage-relief proposal came just days before the Nevada caucuses in which Republican voters will state their preferences for GOP presidential nominee.
Nevada, of course, has among the nation's highest foreclosure rates so the timing of Obama's announcement certainly could be interpreted as the White House's way to send voters there the message that a re-elected Obama would be better for Nevada's housing market than the Republican alternative.
The White House issued a fact sheet with details of Obama's proposal which would help homeowners whose mortgages weren't backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. That would include some homeowners with mortgages bundled into mortgage securities held by investors.
Obama's proposal would also "streamline" refinancing for those homeowners with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-guaranteed mortgages.
It has virtually no chance of being passed by the Republican-controlled House, however, so right now it's little more than a document that will allow the president to make debating points.