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“Today we have a clear choice: We can look at the statistics, wring our hands and continue to do nothing, or we can do what America has done in times of difficulty: acknowledge we have a real challenge and confront it head-on with real solutions,” Mrs. Clinton said in Derry, N.H. “I think we need to act now with smart, practical solutions to strengthen our housing and mortgage markets.”

Mrs. Clinton’s proposal includes a $1 billion federal fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, an end to prepayment penalties and more affordable housing options, the Associated Press reports.

The nation’s 10th largest mortgage lender, American Home Mortgage Investment Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection a day earlier. Two other mortgage lenders said they are not accepting new applications. Falling home prices and a spike in payment defaults have scared investors away from investments backed by home loans.

“It’s a combination now of economic conditions that are not working for the majority of Americans, and unsavory practices that are undermining the dream of homeownership,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Missed opportunity

“Republicans faced a time for choosing last week, when Senate Democrats brought to the floor an ethics ‘reform’ bill that may make it easier for Congress to dole out pork-barrel spending. In the words of GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, the bill ‘not only failed to drain the swamp, but gave the alligators new rights,’ ” John Fund writes at www.

“Rather than block the legislation and insist on better reforms, image-sensitive Republicans largely backed the bill,” Mr. Fund said.

“Have they learned anything? They lost control of Congress last year in no small measure because the GOP had become identified with the culture of pork-barrel spending, frittering away the American people’s former confidence in them on fiscal issues.

“If 34 Senate Republicans had united and voted against the bill, Democrats would have been forced to draw up more meaningful reforms. They might even have forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to accept the very ‘sunshine’ provisions the Senate unanimously adopted in January — so at least the public would know who is doling out pork. But when it came down to it, only 17 voted for prolonging debate on the bill.

“The bill the rest voted for had been gutted: Disclosing an earmark is now voluntary (not mandatory), protecting an earmark requires only 41 votes (instead of 67), and the power to determine whether a spending provision inserted by a senator is officially considered an earmark will now be up to … Mr. Reid.

“The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Democrats lead Republicans by 16 points on controlling government spending and by nine points on taxes.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or