House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Tuesday that any effort by Bush administration officials to access further funding via the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program must come with a plan to help troubled homeowners stay in their home, the latest salve to be fired in a growing battle over government’s role in attempting to fix the nation’s growing number of bad mortgages. “It was very clearly spelled out in the initial legislation that funds would be used for mortgage foreclosure forbearance,” she was quoted as saying at a news conference by a MarketWatch report. Pelosi said she had asked House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) on Monday to write a bill that would require Treasury to modify some mortgages if it wants access to a government bank bailout fund. Frank has said publicly that he believes more needs to be done to prevent foreclosures. “The refusal so far to use the money [to stop foreclosures] has been a violation of the intent [of TARP] and undermines the ability to get the votes from Congress in the future,” Frank said during a recent Congressional hearing, referring to the second $350 billion installment of bailout funding via the $700 billion bailout program, which Congress could attempt to withhold. Attempt, because while it’s clear that enough lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are upset with the direction (or lack thereof) over TARP spending thus far, they’d have 15 days after Treasury makes a request for additional funds to make an attempt block the request, according to a Washington Post report; most of HousingWire’s sources on Capitol Hill suggest it isn’t likely, however, that Congress would have the support needed to overcome a Bush veto. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson has said repeatedly he does not intend to request the second $350 billion under TARP, leaving flexibility there for the incoming Obama administration and likely Treasury secretary Tim Geithner; but that stance has softened in recent days after Congress has failed to support a $14 billion bailout of U.S. automakers, leaving Bush administration officials open to requesting TARP funding to prop up the Big Three. MarketWatch reported Tuesday that Frank is already working on drafting the requested legislation, but that it wouldn’t be ready until January. The House Financial Committee chairman is expected to propose legislation that will seek to expand the much-ballyhooed Hope for Homeowners program designed to funnel troubled mortgages through to the government, as well as look to force loan modifications along the lines of a program lobbied heavily for in recent weeks by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Bair. It’s unclear, however, if such legislation would enjoy bipartisan support, HW sources suggested. Write to Paul Jackson at [email protected].
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