The banking industry expressed grave fears over the mortgage cramdown legislation that failed in a Senate vote last week, but a post-mortem on the scene makes that anxiety seem a little overhyped. With so many different groups vying to kill the legislation, the vote last week was never a nail-biter.
Reporters in the financial press couldn´t quite decide whom to blame for the bankruptcy failure among the usual lobbying suspects. As the blogger Kevin Funnell pointed out, the Los Angeles Times went with the most obvious: the American Bankers Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association, two powerful groups representing big banks and mortgage lenders. But Funnell himself thought more recognition should go to the community bankers and to credit unions-and he saw support for his view in the Wall Street Journal´s account.
"As debate on the measure brewed, Geithner was pushing for the creation of a government-sponsored program that would rely on private investors to buy the risky mortgage-backed securities weighing down the market. The forced easing, or "cram-down," of a mortgage by a bankruptcy judge would have likely introduced additional uncertainty for investors."
But not everyone agreed that the administration´s lukewarm support for the measure was intentional. Forbes described the bankruptcy cramdown provision´s failure as President "Obama´s setback."
But what about the Senate Republicans? They deserve more credit. Rumor has it that it was their unwillingness to compromise on the issue-out of principle-that kept some industry participants from cutting deals with the Democrats. As one insider who wished to remain nameless told BankThink:
"You cannot dismiss the fact that the Republicans in the Senate looked at this issue, decided to dig in their heels, and had the votes. Most people stood to the sidelines at the request of the leadership...They made this their own. That is the single biggest factor."