- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 4, 2012

President Obama told underwater homeowners Saturday that their ability to refinance their mortgages is in the hands of a do-nothing Congress.

“In order to lower mortgage payments for millions of Americans, we need Congress to act,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. “And as anyone who has followed the news in the last six months can tell you, getting Congress to do anything these days is not an easy job.”

The president is pushing a plan that will cost up to $10 billion to allow homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth to refinance their mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration. It would save the average homeowner about $3,000 per year, according to administration estimates. About 3.5 million homeowners would qualify.
Mr. Obama first detailed the program Wednesday during a visit to a community center in Falls Church, Va.

The program would be funded through a new tax on big banks. In his address, the president called it “a small fee” that “doesn’t add a dime to the deficit.” Congress has rejected the tax on banks twice in the past two years, including in 2010 when Democrats controlled the House and Senate.

Addressing critics who argue that many homeowners took on mortgages beyond their means, Mr. Obama said: “This plan will not help folks who bought a house they couldn’t afford and then walked away from it. It won’t help folks who bought multiple houses just to turn around and sell them.”

Mr. Obama acknowledged that several of the administration’s efforts to help struggling homeowners haven’t had the desired impact. But he said that’s no reason for Washington to give up.

“I’m going to keep up the pressure on Congress to do the right thing,” he told Americans. “But I also need your help. I need your voice. I need everyone who agrees with this plan to get on the phone, send an email, tweet, pay a visit, and remind your representatives in Washington who they work for. Tell them to pass this plan.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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