WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders begged President Bush to remain firm on his threat to veto the mortgage relief, or bailout bill, but he relented on the advice of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told reporters on Thursday "I kept trying to say all of last week to the president . . . and others, "Look, we could solve this problem before we leave here at the end of July . . . Let's mastermind the opportunity we have here.'
"We told the president's staff on Monday," Blunt said at a breakfast briefing, "if you keep the veto threat, we'll sustain the veto and we'll get a better bill before we leave here next week."
But then Bush announced he was withdrawing his veto threat. Blunt said, "Whenever (the president) sends a signal that we'll sign anything you pass, you're asking for really bad things to happen."
"In my view, they did happen," Blunt said. "The (mortgage) bailout provisions let too many bankers get rid of too many loans that they had written off to zero already."
Bush's action released a number of Republicans to side with Democrats and vote for the measure. Without a full complement of Republican opponents, the House on Wednesday voted 272-152 to pass sweeping legislation that will offer up to $300 billion in assistance to troubled homeowners and throw government support behind mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it has to survive a Republican filibuster threat.
"This legislation will be talked about for months, perhaps years," Blunt said. He warned it authorized the Treasury to grant up to $4 billion to local housing organizations, even ones that had been convicted of crimes in the recent past, to buy up foreclosed properties.
Blunt said the bill lacks stronger oversight on Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, discourages banks from working with people who want to stay in their homes, and "comes as close to throwing money away as you could possibly get."
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he wasn't told of Bush decision to withdraw the veto threat until Tuesday night.
"I am very disappointed," Boehner told the web newspaper Politico. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., called the president's decision "unconscionable."
With less than six months left in President Bush's term, who's minding the store?
-- Douglas Turner