How The Controversial Foreclosure Bill Made It Through Congress With No Public Debate

First Posted: 10- 8-10 01:13 PM   |   Updated: 10- 8-10 04:43 PM

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President Obama vetoed a bill yesterday that some homeowner advocates worried would have made it easier for banks to proceed with bogus foreclosures by forcing courts to recognize out-of-state and electronic notarizations.

The bill, titled the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act, had glided through the Senate with no public debate and passed by "unanimous consent" on Sep. 27 -- despite the fact that the nation's biggest banks have for the past few weeks been embroiled in a foreclosure scandal spawned in part by their use of bogus notarizations. The bill has been passed by the House three times since 2007, and each time it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Why did the world's greatest deliberative body let it get through this time?

It happened because Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, was a notary public from Vermont, according to Judiciary Committee aides.

It all started, the aides said, when committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) participated in an Aug. 3 "Why Coolidge Matters" event with the National Notary Association at the Library of Congress. "Senator Leahy was so very gracious to carve out some of his time to join us at the Library of Congress event, and we are grateful for his kind words regarding Calvin Coolidge as well as his support of the important roles played by Notaries Public," wrote Michael Robinson, executive director of the National Notary Association, in a Sep. 14 email to Leahy's office. Robinson asked if anyone from Leahy's office would be interested in H.R. 3808, the notarization bill that had passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote in the springtime.

"In September, after hearing from the National Notary Association....Senator Leahy, in consultation with the Committee's Ranking Member, Senator Jeff Sessions, examined the legislation," Judiciary Committee aides wrote in an email. "Having heard no objections from advocates, States or stakeholders, and having checked with the Department of Justice, the bill was discharged from the Judiciary Committee. It was passed with the unanimous consent after every Senate office was notified that it was being considered and there were no objections."

Consumer advocates thought the timing of the bill's passage -- right in the middle of a paperwork scandal that has forced the nation's biggest banks to halt foreclosures -- was awfully suspicious. But not everybody thought the bill itself was very pernicious: "Just because you get a lawful notarization of a bunch of lies doesn't change your ability to challenge an affidavit as a bunch of lies," said Ira Rheingold, director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

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Max Gardner, a foreclosure defense attorney in North Carolina, isn't satisfied that the bill's passage is owed simply to effective lobbying by the Notary Association. "If Senator Sessions was in any way involved in this matter, then it makes me very suspicious that the mortgage servicing industry was really behind the effort to quietly push this bill through the Congress," Gardner wrote in an email to HuffPost. "Senator Sessions has been the strongest advocate AGAINST allowing consumers to modify first mortgage loans in bankruptcy and against all pro-consumers statutes for that matter. I blame Calvin Coolidge for a lot, but not for this bill."

Sessions' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michael Robinson told HuffPost he figured Sessions was just doing a favor for the bill's House sponsor, fellow Alabaman Robert Anderholt (R). But both Robinson and staffers for Anderholt have been surprised by how suddenly the Senate passed the bill. "Quite honestly it took us by surprise at the end of September when we got word it had been introduced on the floor of the Senate and was headed to the White House," said Robinson.

The only organization that has ever reported lobbying on the notarization bill is the American Association for Justice, better known as the trial lawyers, which lobbied on the bill back in 2008 (though the accuracy of this portion of Lobbying Disclosure Act reports is dubious, so other interests may have lobbied on it as well). "We worked on aspects of the bill that had nothing to do with the foreclosure crisis, nothing to do with electronic notarization," said a spokesman for the Association.

HuffPost asked Robinson if he had been manipulated by a clever bank lobbyist. He said he had not. "We're just shrugging our shoulders. We're just innocently trying to advance the role of the notary public in interstate commerce. We're a nonpartisan organization that has no sophisticated lobbying arm," he said. "We are quite honestly just amazed at the way the bill has kind of been framed in light of the foreclosure issues that have surfaced over the past several days."

After President Obama vetoed the bill, a Leahy spokeswoman said in a statement that the senator supported the decision. "When Congress passed the legislation, no concerns or objections had been expressed," the spokeswoman said. "Now that concerns have been raised, Congress should reexamine whether this bill might have an unintended impact on foreclosures in the future. We certainly do not believe that is what Representative Aderholt and the other cosponsors of the legislation intended."

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President Obama vetoed a bill yesterday that some homeowner advocates worried would have made it easier for banks to proceed with bogus foreclosures by forcing courts to recognize out-of-state and ele...
President Obama vetoed a bill yesterday that some homeowner advocates worried would have made it easier for banks to proceed with bogus foreclosures by forcing courts to recognize out-of-state and ele...
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victorberry   09:43 PM on 10/13/2010
Just look at all the bills hung up in the Senate by the Republicans. They won't agree on renaming local post offices or approve any honorary holidays, but they let this one go through unopposed? Something is rotten in Denmark ... or more accurately Alabama!
Stan Olshefski   12:38 PM on 10/14/2010
Why do we need to spend time and money during a recession to rename post offices?
dhfsfc   11:49 AM on 10/10/2010
If a bunch of Fu**ing Ret*** Bloggers know what this bill will result in, then how did the Senate not know.

Wow, Leahy is a crook too. Now that's a disappointment.
Royal Payne   10:35 PM on 10/09/2010
I just can't imagine a piece of legislation getting through both the House and Senate without someone knowing what is in it. Isn't that why we pass bills ... to find out what's in them? At least that is what I learned from Ms. Nancy.
LI2US   11:11 AM on 10/09/2010
On the matter of ousting our current elected officials, the only third option that has a hope in h3ll of winning an election is "None of the Above" and I'm all for it. Where do I sign?
motoGpifupleez   10:49 AM on 10/09/2010
There are far more things that unite politicians than one would imagine.

Their love of being "in the game", their intense desire to remain "in the game", their total allegiance to the corporate dollars that allow them to play "the game" and their abject hatred of and third party that tries to broaden participation in "the game".

The (D) v (R) theatre is for public consumption: to give you the illusion that you have a choice when in reality you are being robbed blind by the wealthy and their servants-

The benchwarmers in the House and Senate chambers and the occupant of the White House.
Australian2   06:02 AM on 10/10/2010
Given Pat Leahy's staunch liberal voting record, I doubt your words. Leahy has voted for progressive income taxation, LGBT right, abortion rights, greater access to education and healthcare (he was a supporter of the public option during the debate), environmen­tally-frie­ndly policies and strongly against the Bush tax cuts (or their renewal), the removal of the state tax and the removal of the AMT.

To my mind, it's simply far more likely that they sneaked this one under the radar: remember, it went through committee before the scandal broke. A friend of mine is speculating that Leahy was cowed (by threats of ouster from his committee chair) into allowing it to pass, but then induced Obama to veto, which I also think unlikely.
lcr999   10:40 AM on 10/09/2010
It was NOT A FORECLOSURE BILL. And there is no ground zero mosque. etc etc.
How about some responsible journalism.

This was a bill about notarization that has been under discussion for years and was passed by the house 4 or 5 months ago. It may or may not have some effect on the current foreclosure crisis/fraud but to call it a foreclosure bill is just irresponsible.

But I guess when the attention span of the average reader is measured in seconds you have to make things up to get attention.
Australian2   06:03 AM on 10/10/2010
You're right: it was not specifically about foreclosure notarisations, which leads me to support Leahy's "unintended consequences" line.

However, it msut be acknowledged that, had this bill gone through in 2007,8 or 9, it would have placed the banks in a MUCH stronger position right now.
lcr999   12:59 PM on 10/10/2010
The bigger point to take from this is how all discussion on a variety of complex and important topics gets boiled down to headline buzzwords that aren't generally true and just prevent rational discussion­.....forec­losure bill, ground zero mosque,.....etc etc.

And it is not just fox news that does it.
Monk2001   10:25 AM on 10/09/2010
Shady (R) tactics... Always doing what's best for the ultra wealthy.
SwimUpstream   11:07 AM on 10/09/2010
Hey Me Ted - it was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. FYI, that means that Democrats passed it
Australian2   06:04 AM on 10/10/2010
And a Democrat vetoed it after the scandal broke.
Palafox   10:15 AM on 10/09/2010
I've noticed that Jeff Sessions hasn't been the same since Larry Craig, ahem, retired.
bacaja   10:03 AM on 10/09/2010
" "Now that concerns have been raised, Congress should reexamine whether this bill might have an unintended impact on foreclosures in the future. We certainly do not believe that is what Representative Aderholt and the other cosponsors of the legislation intended."
GardenerNorCal   09:59 AM on 10/09/2010
Poor Coolidge must be rolling in his grave. But then he's been accused of worse.
Carl Caroli   09:30 AM on 10/09/2010
Ain't it funny how we can get bipartisanship on legislation when the lobbyists throw enough money around?
JohnHKennedy   09:25 AM on 10/09/2010
SO Colorado's Senators BENNET & UDALL VOTED FOR IT !!
Passed on "unanimous vote"?

And Now they have the gall to applaud Obama for Vetoing

Was that similar to reports of both of them standing in the well of the Senate waiting for Schumer to tell them a certain bill would not pass on a second vote (after have voted against it the first time) so they could safely vote for it and Pretend to Democratic Voters that THEY CARE ABOUT US!

Colorado Dems should PRIMARY UDALL !

BENNET is a ConservaDem LAPDOG who should not be returned to the Senate, especially since our Senate Primary was Stolen.

Colorado Democrats who were Andrew Romanoff supporters will be setting up Themselves for Another Stolen Primary if they fail to take this opportunity to pressure Obama and our State and National Democratic Elites
to Never, Ever Steal another of our Democratic Primaries.

Theft of anything, has consequences,
Especially something as Sacred as having an Honest Primary
(which you must have before you can say you had an Honest General Election).

And according to the rather consistent polling Buck has a strong and growing lead over Bennet so it may not matter but

Romanoff Supporters who demand Honest Primaries
or Just Leave the
Space Next To Michael Bennet's Name "BLANK"

to show our anger at our Democratic Party elites
for this unforgivable theft of our 2010 Senate Nomination.
Max Ferguson   01:17 PM on 10/09/2010
Regardless of how you feel about the D primary and the supposed theft, to write in Romanoff or cast no vote would like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Polls can be wrong and at this point CO Dems need to come together and do everything we can to defeat Ken Buck!
Australian2   06:07 AM on 10/10/2010
Oooh, a teabagger troll. I don't think a lot for Bennet, but if I lived in CO (which, thank goodness, I do not), I would be participating - heavily - in GOTV efforts for him, if only because he's tolerable, while Ken Buck is NOT.
Philosopher-king   09:15 AM on 10/09/2010
The moral of the story, pay attention to your job. I wonder how many times this has happened went both houses of Congress was ran by a overwhelming majority by one party. I hope the American People take this as a lesson to keep their eyes peeled.
cybersense   09:00 AM on 10/09/2010
Here everyone - read this below, it will help give you a better understanding of what you are trying to piece together about this veto. Everything that can be done, is done. It is important to remember that the Senate is not the same as the House. Which is were the bill has to go back to. The House is completely adjourned. President Obama did it both ways, because of problems before with this method of pocket veto that Bush tried.

cybersense   08:48 AM on 10/09/2010
JOHN - Please be complete in your statements. There is NO sessions. Furthermore, this is the Senate who did this, and not for this bill. No regular business can be done during "pro forma".

This bill has to go back to the house. It did, btw - to the Clerk, with a complete veto and the Presidents disapproval. That is normal procedure. The HOUSE is not even in "pro forma". There is nothing going on - period.


1:04 A.M. -
The House adjourned pursuant to H. Con. Res. 321. The next meeting is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on November 15, 2010.
On motion to adjourn Agreed to by voice vote.

Mr. Engel moved that the House do now adjourn

johnb123 15 hours ago (5:19 PM) 317 Fans Become a fan Unfan
Friday, Oct 08, 2010

The Senate convened at 11:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.

pro forma session - A brief meeting (sometimes only several seconds) of the Senate in which no business is conducted. It is held usually to satisfy the constitutional obligation that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other.

Read More... ----------­----------­----------­----------­----------­----------­----------­----------­----

The Senate is still in session.

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