Wall Street Journal Editorial
The power of a united minority was on beneficial display yesterday, as Senate Republicans defeated the budget bankruptcy “cramdown” bill. Credit goes to Arizona’s Jon Kyl and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who kept their party together to beat destructive legislation that had easily passed the House and was one of President Obama’s housing priorities.
The cramdown would have allowed bankruptcy judges to rewrite contracts to reduce the amount that people owe on their mortgages. But a bipartisan majority understood that relief for today’s troubled borrowers would be paid with higher rates on the next generation of homeowners, as lenders priced the added risk into mortgage contracts.
A dozen Democrats joined Republicans in the 51-45 vote, and even Pennsylvania turncoat Arlen Specter gave his former GOP comrades an assist. Speaking for millions of renters and nondelinquent borrowers, Mr. McConnell said that the vote “ensures that homeowners who pay their bills and follow the rules won’t see an interest-rate hike at the whim of a bankruptcy judge.”
Prior to the vote, the Associated Press described the looming defeat as “the first major legislative setback for the popular president.” Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and New York’s Chuck Schumer also did their worst to pass the bill, including some arm-twisting of politically vulnerable bankers. Their defeat is a victory for healthy credit markets and, let us hope, a sign that Americans do not want to throw out all the rules of our market economy.
The victory is also an example of Republicans helping the economy and thus saving Democrats from their own worst instincts. Liberals were so intent on helping troubled homeowners that they were willing to punish the profits of the very banks they say they want to lend more to new mortgage borrowers. May we have more such virtuous “obstructionism.”