WASHINGTON - President Bush, acknowledging the economic "tough times" for many Americans, said yesterday that he remains opposed to any homeowner rescue legislation that would be a bailout for lenders.
The president's comments came as Senate leaders were coming to terms on a bipartisan bill to help strapped borrowers get government-backed mortgages, paid for by tapping a fund designed to cover housing for poor families. Bush did not comment on that proposed legislation directly.
"Laws shouldn't bail out lenders," Bush said after getting an economic update from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. "Laws shouldn't help speculators. The government ought to be helping creditworthy people stay in their homes."
Senate leaders announced late yesterday afternoon that they had reached agreement on a homeowner rescue bill. The Senate Banking Committee will consider it today, said Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, and Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, the chairman and top Republican of the panel respectively.
For their bill, the senators have been considering providing mortgage relief for struggling families by tapping an affordable housing fund drawn from the profits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The two are government-sponsored companies that finance home loans.
The White House did not indicate whether it supported that bill, but White House spokesman Tony Fratto spoke favorably of a provision that provides an independent regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Bush said earlier in the day that tighter regulation of the government-backed mortgage giants would "will really help stabilize the markets and make it easier for people to stay in their home."
The Bush administration yesterday also reiterated its stance that it remains too soon to consider a second economic stimulus boost for the nation.
Many Democrats in Congress are pushing for another government-backed economic boost.