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House Passes Bill To Aid Housing, Fannie & Freddie

Rescue legislation sailed through the House Wednesday aimed at helping 400,000 strapped homeowners avoid foreclosure and to prevent troubled mortgage giants Fannie Maeand Freddie Mac from collapsing.

CNBC

The 272-152 vote reflected a congressional push to send election-year help to struggling borrowers and to reassure jittery financial markets about the health of two pillars of the mortgage market.

Hours before the vote, President Bush dropped his opposition to the measure, which is now on track to pass the Senate and become law within days.

The White House swallowed its distaste for $3.9 billion in grants the bill would provide for devastated neighborhoods.

The Bush administration gains the power to throw a lifeline to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as part of the measure that also is designed to rein in the government-sponsored mortgage firms.

The administration and lawmakers in both parties teamed to negotiate the measure, which accomplishes several Democratic priorities, including federal help for homeowners, a new permanent affordable housing fund financed by Fannie and Freddie and the $3.9 billion for hard-hit neighborhoods.

The grants are for buying and fixing up foreclosed properties.

"It is the product of a very significant set of compromises," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the Financial Services Committee chairman. "We are dealing with the consequences of bad decisions and inaction and malfeasance from years before. Obviously, it requires a joint effort."

In a statement on the bill, the White House said parts of it "are too important to the stability of our nation's housing market, financial system and the broader economy not to be enacted immediately." Bush had objected to the neighborhood grants, saying they would help bankers and lenders, not homeowners who are in trouble.

Still, Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said a showdown with Congress over the funds would be ill-timed.

It was a striking split for Bush and many congressional Republicans.

GOP leaders denounced the housing legislation as a bailout for irresponsible homeowners and unscrupulous lenders, even as they acknowledged it was probably necessary.

"It's a bill that I wish I could support. It's a bill that the market clearly needs ... but this is not a bill that I can support," said Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the minority leader.

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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