The Washington Times - July 1, 2008, 02:15PM

JACKSON, Miss. | Congress is “running out of time” to pass a housing bill that will soften the impact of continuing foreclosures in the U.S. housing market, the White House said today.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto, speaking to reporters on board Air Force One en route here, blamed the Democrat-controlled Congress for not acting sooner in response to President Bush’s call for a bill last August.

“We are now approaching a year since the president called on Congress to pass housing legislation. I’ll remind you, it was August 31 of last year,” Mr. Fratto said. “It’s hard to believe that we’ve gone 10 months now, waiting for Congress to act.”

Congress is on vacation this week, after recessing last week without reaching an agreement on the housing bill.

Mr. Fratto said the administration likes the Senate bill’s provisions to strengthen oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, but that it does not approve of giving $4 billion in funding to states so that they can buy up foreclosed houses.

The president is currently at a fund-raiser for Sen. Roger Wicker’s election campaign at the home of Kelley Williams, a wealthy Mississippi businessman. Mr. Wicker was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour to replace Sen. Trent Lott and is running in a special election this fall to fill the remainder of Mr. Lott’s term, which was to run until 2012.

Later this afternoon, Mr. Bush heads to Little Rock, Ark., to talk with two homeowners who are trying to avoid foreclosure, along with some credit counselors helping during the process.

Foreclosures in May were up 50 percent over May 2007, with 261,255 homes receiving at least one foreclosure-related filing, up from 176,137.

And foreclosures are likely to continue at high levels into the summer and fall, as subprime adjustable-rate mortgages are scheduled to reset at their highest level, following the peak of the housing bubble in 2005 and 2006.

“Every day that we wait, the problem gets worse; more people go into foreclosure. We could really use the extra tools and some of the extra authorities that are contained in this legislation,” Mr. Fratto said.

The president’s last event of this travel day is another fund-raiser in Little Rock for the Arkansas Republican Party.