The Dems, the White House and the foreclosure divide
The calls by Democratic House and Senate leaders for a national foreclosure moratorium could lose a little bit of fire now that Bank of America has thawed its foreclosure freeze. The bank said Monday it would resume 102,000 foreclosures in 23 states after it started a nationwide suspension Oct. 1, following claims of fraudulent paperwork and processing.
Still, the foreclosure debacle is far from over. With attorneys general in 50 states investigating the mortgage servicing industry, shareholders fretting over the depth of the morass, and a housing market that could fall further as this new crisis holds up sales, the political debate over whether the industry should halt foreclosures until the mess is cleared up is sure to continue for some time.
What isn't so certain is how the Obama administration, which has said it doesn't support a freeze, and Democratic leaders like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and New York Rep. Edolphus Towns, who've said they do, will reconcile their differences. While debates between the executive and legislative branches are part of the political system, even within the same party, their opposition at such a critical political moment is an interesting view into the risks of not presenting a united front.
Of course, that critical political moment is a big part of why Obama and his party's congressional leaders don't have the same opinion. Reid and many of his peers are up for reelection during the midterms; President Obama is not. Pushing the federal government to take more aggressive action at a time of deep anti-incumbent, anti-big business sentiment should play well with many voters.
But it sets up a deeper divide between the president and the leaders within his own party. At a time when the Democrats are on the ropes--Obama's approval ratings are way down, and the party is expected to lose control of the House--they don't need further fissures when they're already playing defense. Some of that disagreement is inevitable in our political system--as president, Obama does not have control over congressional leaders within his own party in the same way other chief executives do.
Creating a united front when a traditional management hierarchy isn't in place to build consensus usually takes more than just a leader. It takes a catalyst--a pivotal event that people with differing views can come together to get behind. Perhaps Bank of America's foreclosure resumptions will be the spark that brings a consensus after all. A better bet is the end of the election.
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