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Where’s Obama’s Stick on Cramdown?

Another observation about the troubles facing Senate Democrats as they struggle to push consumer-friendly cramdown legislation through the upper chamber this week: The Obama administration has been little help twisting arms to get the legislation passed.

Yeah, President Obama came out in February and reiterated his support for the idea of empowering bankruptcy judges to reduce the terms of primary mortgages to prevent foreclosures. But it was just an aside amid a much longer speech outlining the many financial incentives the government would provide to the industry for modifying loans voluntarily.

And more recently, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner offered a less than enthusiastic endorsement of the bankruptcy proposal. Pressed this month by Elizabeth Warren, who heads the congressional panel overseeing the Wall Street bailout, Geithner declined to say that the cramdown legislation is essential to the administration’s plan to stem foreclosures, which are on the rise. Instead, Geithner said only that “the president is supportive of this.”

That, of course, is different than saying that Geithner is supportive of it. And clearly, Obama hasn’t gone out of his way to press the banks to accept the bankruptcy change, as he did, for example, with the various credit card reforms that are currently flying through Congress.

With the foreclosure crisis getting worse each month, would it be worth another White House pow-wow with Wall Street executives to get them on board? The roughly 1.7 million families estimated to keep their homes as a result of the bill would probably appreciate the gesture.

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