Obama aims to circumvent Congress with mortgage relief, student loans
The president also was using his visit to Las Vegas to promote a $15 billion neighborhood revitalization plan contained in his current jobs proposal that would help redevelop abandoned and foreclosed properties and stabilize affected neighborhoods.
The Nevada stop was the first leg of a three-day tour of Western states, blending his pitch for boosting the economy with an aggressive hunt for campaign cash.
From Nevada, Obama will head for the glamor of Hollywood and the homes of movie stars Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas and producer James Lassiter for some high-dollar fundraising. On Tuesday, he will tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. He will also raise money in San Francisco and in Denver.
Before the president addressed his mortgage refinancing plan, he attended a fundraiser at the luxurious Bellagio hotel, offering a sharp contrast between well-to-do who are fueling his campaign and the struggling homeowners hoping to benefit from his policies.
The mortgage assistance plan by the Federal Housing Finance Administration will help borrowers with little or no equity in their homes, many of whom are stuck with 6 or 7 percent mortgage rates, to seek refinancing and take advantage of lower rates. The FHFA plans to remove caps that had allowed homeowners to refinance only if they owed up to 25 percent more than their homes are worth.
The refinancing program is being extended until the end of 2013. It was originally scheduled to end in June 2012.
The administration's incremental steps to help homeowners have prompted even the president's allies to demand more aggressive action.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a moderate Democrat from California, gave voice to Democratic frustration on the housing front last week when he announced his decision not to seek re-election, blaming the Obama administration directly for not addressing the crisis.
"I am dismayed by the administration's failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis," Cardoza said in a statement that drew widespread attention. "Home foreclosures are destroying communities and crushing our economy, and the administration's inaction is infuriating."
Obama's new "We can't wait" slogan is his latest in a string of stump-speech refrains he hopes will pressure Republicans who oppose his $447 billion jobs package. He initially exhorted Congress to "Pass this bill!" then demanded "I want it back," all in the face of unanimous Republican opposition in the Senate, though even some Democrats were unhappy with the plan.
Obama has now agreed to break the proposal into its component parts and seek congressional approval one measure at a time. The overall proposal would increase taxes on millionaires, lower payroll taxes on workers and businesses for a year, pay for bridge, road and school construction projects, and help states and local governments retain teachers and emergency workers.
The proposals with the best chance of passage are the payroll tax cuts and extensions in jobless insurance to the long-term unemployed.
Countering Obama's criticism, GOP leaders say the sluggish economy and stubbornly high unemployment rate are the result of failed Obama administration policies.
"It's another day in the campaign life of President Obama, and he's bringing his re-election tour to Nevada, ground zero for the damaging effects of his failed economic policies," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Monday.
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