Washington – President Barack Obama announced a series of measures to make refinancing mortgages easier for families facing the threat of foreclosure, contrasting his administration's efforts with inaction by Congress.
"What people don't understand, though, is why some elected officials in Washington don't seem to share the same sense of urgency that people all around the country are," he said in Las Vegas.
"So I'm here to say to all of you - and to say to the people of Nevada and the people of Las Vegas - we can't wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won't act, I will," Obama said.
He presented a reform of the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, which allows more time for refinancing mortgages, makes more people eligible and lowers interest rates on refinanced loans granted by government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
For that reason the president specifically chose to visit Las Vegas, one of the cities hit hardest by the housing crisis and where home prices have tumbled some 50 percent since 2008.
One condition for getting mortgage refinancing requires that the amount owed cannot exceed 125 percent of the home's current value, which means that many underwater borrowers will not be eligible for the new, lower interest rates.
With this reform, the White House hopes that 1 million families will be added to the mortgage programs backed by the federal government.
"(T)he truth is, the only way that we can truly attack our economic challenges, the only way we can put hundreds of thousands of people back to work right now is with bold action from Congress," Obama said. " But last month, when I addressed a joint session of Congress about our jobs crisis, I also said that I intend to do everything in my power to act on behalf of the American people -- with or without Congress."
Obama has faced a divided Congress since the legislative elections of November 2010, with the House of Representatives controlled by a Republican majority bent on blocking any new bills throughout 2011.
The $447 million jobs plan presented by Obama to a joint session of Congress includes tax cuts and a public spending increase geared to stimulate the fragile U.S. economy and reduce unemployment, which currently stands at 9.1 percent.
But the president was undermined once again when Republicans rejected a provision of the plan that would provide $35 billion for states to hire teachers, police and firefighters.
The U.S. president is currently on a tour of the country to sell his jobs plan.
After visiting North Carolina and Virginia by bus last week, he is touring a great part of the West with stops in Nevada and California.