Miller leads complaint about foreclosure aid

Rep. George Miller, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, led 18 House Democrats in complaining to the Obama Administration yesterday that not enough has been done to help distressed homeowners in the Bay Area and nationwide.

“We are writing to urge stronger and immediate actions by the Administration to help many of our constituents who are being routinely abused, lied to, and subjected to financial conflicts of interest by lenders and mortgage servicers, including those participating in federal programs,” they said in their letter to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Our constituents are running out of time. This Administration must stand up for America’s families caught in the housing crisis. The Making Home Affordable Program is simply not making sufficient progress to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. It has so far failed to ensure that mortgage servicers work with homeowners in good faith to achieve loss mitigation that works for homeowners, investors and our communities.”

With the $29 billion Home Affordable Modification Program having been pegged by the Government Accountability Office and other independent watchdogs as inefficient and in need of reform, House Republicans are targeting HAMP for elimination as part of their proposed budget cuts. Miller, D-Martinez, and his cohorts don’t support that, but rather are urging the program’s immediate improvement to crack down on mortgage servicers’ abusive practices.

Miller organized a meeting last week for more than a dozen of his colleagues with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to convey their concern over HAMP and their constituents’ mistreatment. Among the signatories of yesterday’s letter were representatives John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.


Dems warn of House GOP budget’s impact on CA

California Democratic Congressional Delegation Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, rallied her troops today for a conference call with at least eight members highlighting how House Republicans’ budget plan would impact California.

“While we know reining in our deficit is necessary for economic prosperity, there is a responsible way to do it,” she said.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said that “in transportation, we’re really talking about serious, serious job losses in California” as the GOP plan cuts funding for high-speed rail, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and other programs adding up to at least $1.25 billion.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said she’s now circulating a letter to California House members asking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect to California $2 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday refused; senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent such a letter yesterday. Garamendi said unless California gets that money, the Republican budget will leave its rail project underfunded.

Speier was among several members on today’s call who voiced concern at the House GOP plan to cut Title X family planning funding; Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Republicans are exercising their “vendetta” against family planning and women’s health.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, decried a potential $1.3 billion cut to community health care clinics; he said in a rural community like Watsonville where the clinic would lose $151,000 per year from its base grant, jobs would be lost and health access severely curtailed. “It really does have impacts on Main Street all over the United States.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said even to a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat like himself, a cut like that makes no sense.

“What they’re doing is a lot like waking up in the morning and finding you’ve put on a lot of weight and deciding you’re going to take care of it by cutting off your leg,” Thompson said, noting sick people cut off from community clinic care will instead seek higher-cost care with traditional family-practice physicians or, worse yet, in emergency rooms. “The cost of health care for these folks is going to go through the roof.”

Farr said addressing the nation’s debt is important, but House Republicans are blurring the distinction between long-term debt – which he likened to a home mortgage – and short-term debt – more like a credit card – in order to score political points.

“What the Republicans are trying to do is scare everybody with the long-term debt saying you have to pay it off right away,” he said, when in fact it’s better to approach that long-term debt with a deliberate, long-term plan rather than “a meat ax.”


Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.


McNerney to honor Giffords at district meeting

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, says his 63rd “Congress at Your Corner” constituent meeting will pay homage to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was critically wounded by a gunman at such a meeting early this month in Tucson.

Jerry McNerney“I’m firmly committed to being accessible to the people I represent,” McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “Over the past four years, I’ve held dozens of these events and always enjoyed the opportunity to hear directly from the people I represent about their thoughts and ideas. I encourage people to come share their thoughts and ideas with me.”

“In light of the tragedy in Arizona, I’m also inviting the public to attend this event to express their support for the victims of the shooting and write notes to Gabby Giffords, my dear friend and colleague. I know that personal and heartfelt words of support from our community will be greatly appreciated during this difficult time.”

McNerney will later deliver these notes to Giffords’ office in Washington, D.C. Also, to honor the shooting’s victims, his Congress at Your Corner will begin with a moment of silence.

It’ll be from 3 to 4 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 27, at Stockton’s Cesar Chavez Central Library, 605 N. El Dorado St.

Also Thursday, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, his staff and local officials will host an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at his Fairfield district office at its new, more accessible site at 609 Jefferson St., across the street from the Solano County Government Building.

John Garamendi“The people of the 10th Congressional District have entrusted me to be their representative in Washington, and to do my job, I must be accessible to the people I serve,” Garamendi said in a news release. “Our new Fairfield office is more centrally located, making it easier for my constituents in Solano County to reach out to me and my staff.”

Among those scheduled to attend are Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis; Fairfield Mayor Harry Price and Vice Mayor Chuck Timm; Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez and Vice Mayor Jane Day; Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez; and Solano Community College President Jowell Laguerre.


A few upcoming political events

Pete StarkRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, is holding two town meetings this Saturday, Jan. 22, so constituents can “ask questions about important national issues. Likely topics include the agenda for the new Congress, Republican attempts to repeal the health reform law, and job creation efforts.” The meetings will be from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Fremont Senior Center, 40086 Paseo Padre Parkway, and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at San Leandro City Hall, 835 E. 14th St.

Daniel BorensteinBay Area News Group-East Bay’s very own columnist and editorial writer Daniel Borenstein will join Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal, former Assemblyman and Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research lecturer Joe Nation and SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez for a Commonwealth Club of California discussion on “The True Cost of Public Pensions: Reform or Bust?” at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. “California’s financial situation is in shambles, and some pundits have identified the states public-employee pension obligation as a central part of the problem,” the club says. “But what is the true cost of pensions to the states structural deficit? Nineteen states reformed their public pension benefits in 2010.California has the largest pension system in the nation; is it now time for our state to reform our program too?” Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will headline a Commonwealth Club of California panel discussion on “The Obama Effect: Where Does the African American Community Stand Now?” at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7 in the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Hall, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Also participating will be Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and ColorOfChange.org cofounder and Executive Director James Rucker. “The panel will discuss the effects the election and new president have had on the black community,” the club says. “Has Obama landed the final blow needed to break the glass ceiling? Or has electing the first African-American president during one of the worst times in our country’s history created an unfortunate association that will become more of a hindrance than a help to the African American community?” Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

John GaramendiRep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will host his annual crab feed – a fundraiser for his Garamendi for Congress committee – with guest speaker Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18 in the Antioch Community Center, 4703 Lone Tree Way. Tickets are $45 per person, with more expensive sponsorships available, and are available online.

Jerry McNerneyAnd Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is accepting applications for college and post-graduate internships in his Stockton and Pleasanton offices: “I encourage students who are interested in public service and learning about a congressional office to apply for an internship in one of my offices. It is an excellent way to gain professional experience and to serve our community.” High school students will be considered on a case-by-case basis. To apply, mail or fax a cover letter and resume either to the Stockton office, attn: Internship Coordinator, 2222 Grand Canal Blvd. #7, Stockton, CA 95207 (fax: 209-476-8587) or to the Pleasanton office, attn: Internship Coordinator, 5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd. #175, Pleasanton, CA 94588 (fax: 925-737-0734).


Today’s rhetoric on health care reform repeal

East Bay House members have been busy speaking against the Republican bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the health care reforms enacted last year; the repeal vote is expected to come to a vote today. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, built up a full head of steam on the House floor this morning:

And Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, went into the lions’ den this morning, on “Fox and Friends:”

On the other side, here’s House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at his news conference this morning:

UPDATE @ 12:15 P.M.: Here’s Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

UPDATE @ 3:11 P.M.: The repeal bill, HR 2, has passed on a 245-189 vote, with three Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with the Republican majority: Dan Boren, D-Okla.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; and Mike Ross, D-Ark.