Washington Extra – Deja vu all over again
The Justice Department has stepped into the fray today over reports that the country’s largest mortgage lenders may have evicted tens of thousands of borrowers from their homes with little or no scrutiny of their documents. The lenders are accused of using “robo-signers” to approve foreclosures en masse, like GMAC official Jeffrey Stephan, who has testified to signing some 10,000 documents a month.
The number of foreclosures has slowed significantly since state officials began investigations into the practice in recent weeks, but this may be of scant comfort to the housing market as long as the uncertainty lingers, with a possible backlog of pending foreclosures hanging over the market.
The practice raises yet more questions about regulation of the financial industry, and plays into the narrative of inadequate oversight of greedy bankers undermining the economy, a narrative which lay behind the administration’s reform of financial regulation. But it also highlights the failure of the White House and Dodd-Frank to properly address one of the biggest issues behind the economic collapse, namely the housing market and reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Meanwhile, the media seem to have grown bored of the midterm elections already and turned their collective attention to 2012. First we had Donald Trump opening the door for a possible bid for the presidency. Then there was a leaked email which provided more evidence that Sarah Palin is seriously pondering a bid for the top job. Finally, there is the speculation, fuelled by Bob Woodward, that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden might consider swapping jobs going into the 2012 campaign, to shore up support for President Barack Obama among his Democratic base.
“I think the vice president is doing a wonderful job and he is a great friend of mine,” Clinton said today, declaring she had no interest in the job or reason to do it. “There is so much to do and I think both of us are very happy doing what we are doing.” Washington Extra can only add that it would be rare for a president to change his running mate, and perhaps tough for Hillary Clinton to give up a solid job at State for the slightly nebulous role of vice president. But stranger things have happened.
Here are our top stories from Washington today…
Court considers anti-gay protests at funerals
The Supreme Court considered whether a church has the legal right to stage anti-gay protests at U.S. military funerals to promote its claim that God is angry at America for tolerance toward homosexuals.
For more of this story by James Vicini, read here.
IMF revises U.S. growth down, jobs picture bleak
U.S. economic growth will be much weaker this year and in 2011 than previously thought and that dims hopes for bringing down a very high unemployment rate anytime soon, the International Monetary Fund said.”The most likely prospect for the U.S. economy is for a continued but slow recovery, with growth far weaker than in previous recoveries, considering the depth of the recession,” it said.
For more of this story, read here.
White House blocked BP oil spill estimates: panel
The White House in the spring blocked release of government worst-case estimates of the amount of oil spewing from BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico, the presidential commission looking into the accident said. The commission said government officials told staff that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to release long-term, worst-case spill models for the Deepwater Horizon accident in late April or early May. But the White House Office of Management and Budget blocked the move to make the information public.
For more of this story by Tom Doggett, read here.
White House rejects talk of Clinton/Biden job swap
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denied that Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might swap jobs for the 2012 presidential campaign after author Bob Woodward told CNN the idea of a switch was “on the table.” “It’s just not true,” Gibbs told reporters. “It is not anything that is being discussed here.”
For more of this story, read here.
Justice probing foreclosure processes
The U.S. Justice Department stepped into the fray over reports the country’s largest mortgage lenders evicted struggling borrowers from their homes by signing documents without proper scrutiny. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is looking into media reports that loan servicers are improperly using “robo-signers” to process thousand of foreclosures a month.
For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here
For a factbox on snowballing U.S. foreclosure problems, read here.
Senator sees hope for Obama-led tax code reform
After tackling the behemoths of healthcare and financial reform, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said he believed President Obama might turn to reforming the byzantine and widely hated U.S. tax code. Wyden, the author with Republican Judd Gregg of the only bipartisan plan to overhaul the tax code, said he saw a sliver of light this week when Obama said he wanted to lower the corporate tax rate – a cornerstone of their plan.
For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.
Tech execs tell White House IT can curb US deficit
Top U.S. technology bosses met with White House officials to recommend how to use technology to cut U.S. deficits by $1 trillion over 10 years and offer advice on boosting the country’s sluggish economy. “America’s growing national debt is undermining our global competitiveness,” the Technology CEO Council said. “How we choose to confront and address this challenge will determine our future environment for growth and innovation.”
For more of this story by Alister Bull, read here.
Obama upset over intelligence leaks: intel chief
President Obama is upset over a rash of intelligence leaks in Washington, intelligence chief James Clapper said, excoriating officials who “get their jollies” from talking to reporters. “I was at a meeting yesterday with the president and I was ashamed to have to sit there to have to listen to the president express his great angst about the leaking that’s going on here in this town,” he said.
For more of this story by Phil Stewart, read here.
Q+A-Could Republicans gut parts of Wall St reform law?
Republicans want to roll back the landmark Wall Street reforms enacted in July, but tinkering around the edges may be all they can manage. Analysts see little to no chance of a full dismantling of the law meant to prevent a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which set off the worst U.S. recession in generations. But Republicans are targeting specific provisions of the reforms, such as funding for the new consumer watchdog.
For more of this story by Kevin Drawbaugh, read here.
For a factbox on Republicans’ potential to take over key committees, read here.
What we are blogging…
Leaked e-mail fuels Palin for president speculation
A leaked e-mail is providing more grist for speculation that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is seriously pondering a run for president in 2012. In the e-mail, Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, complained to Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller and Tim Crawford, treasurer for Palin’s SarahPAC political organization, after Miller declined to endorse the possibility of a Palin presidential candidacy.
For Steve Holland’s full blog, click here.
I’m not forcing Bill to eat tofu and I don’t want to be VP- Hillary
Is she forcing her husband to eat tofu? No. Did Bill cry at the wedding? Not really. Does she want to be vice president? Absolutely not. Hillary Clinton handled softball questions about her husband’s diet and her daughter’s wedding at Fortune magazine’s “Most Powerful Women” conference — before moving on to quash persistent rumors that she might be interested in the vice presidential slot in a second-term Obama administration.
For Andrew Quinn’s full blog, click here
Texas declares war on hogs gone wild
October is not the best month to be a feral hog in Texas. The state’s Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has declared October “Hog Out Month – Get the Hog Outta Texas!” as part of a campaign to eradicate the pests. The campaign aims to get Texans to lock and load and hunt down the animals, which cause widespread damage to farmers and other landowners.
For more of this story, read here.
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Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott (man holds sign in Phoenix)