Bush’s Obstruction Binge

After having issued 10 veto threats in May, President Bush has issued another nine in the first three weeks of June, obstructing bills that would help fight global warming, help the long-term unemployed, continue passenger rail funding and provide a comprehensive set of remedies to the subprime mortgage crisis. Our updated “Presidential Veto Watch” chronicles the continuing fits of obstinance and petulance coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue..

The latest in the obstruction binge was Thursday, when the White House told the Senate that it would reject the mortgage crisis bill because, “The Federal Government must not prolong necessary corrections in the housing market, bail out lenders, or subsidize irresponsible borrowing and lending, at the expense of hard-working people who have played by the rules.”

The message came as consideration of the bill on the Senate floor was beginning, and it left even some Senate conservatives aghast. The Washington Post quoted Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., as calling the bill a “good-faith, bipartisan effort to address this ongoing crisis.” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, released a joint statement with chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., that said, “We believe this legislation represents a compromise that will bring relief to hundreds of thousands of homeowners and the housing markets without putting the American taxpayer at risk.”

With that, the Senate on late Thursday rejected efforts by right-wing senators to weaken the bill—but not before the right-wing spin machine joined the administration in trying to paint its opposition to the bill in populist garb. FreedomWorks, the group headed by former congressman Dick Armey, has a statement that says passage of the bill will mean that taxpayers will end up owning “an overpriced house in Las Vegas.” They are also calling it a “Dodd-Countrywide housing bailout,” seizing on the politically problematic deal that Dodd did get on his own Countrywide mortgage.

The bottom line is this: The administration does not only want to leave high and dry the people who tried to game the system when housing prices were accelerating upward and hucksters were inviting everyone to a non-stop party. They would also leave high and dry those “hard-working people who have played by the rules,” and the communities they live in, for the sake of free-market ideological purity. As conservatives pontificate on the moral hazards of helping the people they encouraged to jump into the pool of deregulated financial excess, they overlook their own hazardous morality.

The White House and the Dick Armeys of the world have no real answer for the ripple effects record levels of foreclosures have on communities. That includes, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, projected economic losses of $166 billion for 361 metropolitan areas, as well as increased crime and decay in the neighborhoods where foreclosures hit hardest. This is what the Bush administration calls “necessary corrections.”

The range of veto threats show that the administration continues to be out of touch with the will of the majority of voters, even as it feigns concern about the issues, such as global climate change, that the bills intend to address. Thursday’s votes on the mortgage bill are the latest signs that some Senate Republicans are feeling the heat for following the path of blind obstruction their conservative leadership set at the beginning of the session.


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