- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Members of Congress take note: “Read the fine print” is the universal business-world admonition for a reason. That’s the lesson from the sudden revelation that some banks have rushed through foreclosures on thousands of homes without reading the legal documents. As a result, authorities in dozens of states have put foreclosures on hold. If bank officials are obliged to verify the accuracy of documents they issue that affect tens of thousands of Americans, the same measure of accountability should apply to federal lawmakers whose votes impact hundreds of millions.

The foreclosure scandal has mushroomed in recent days, as Bank of America announced Friday that it has delayed foreclosures in 23 states while it determines whether it processed foreclosure papers for thousands of homeowners without verifying their contents, the Associated Press reported. Two other lenders, Ally Financial’s GMAC Mortgage unit and JPMorgan Chase, have frozen thousands of foreclosures after errors were discovered in their foreclosure documents.

State attorneys general, who are charged with enforcing foreclosure procedures, have sought to freeze home evictions while consumer-protection regulators verify that the paperwork is free of fraud. If only Americans had been similarly empowered when the Democrat-controlled 111th Congress was unleashing its legislative legerdemain amid passage of several milestone laws having an enormous impact on the well-being of Americans.

The 2,500-page Obamacare bill, which nationalizes one-sixth of the U.S. economy, was little different for Americans than a mystery prize behind Door No. 3 on “The Price Is Right.” As the House prepared to ram the bill through in March, Speaker Nancy Pelosi quipped, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” To the contrary, we have to read the bill to know what is in it. But Americans couldn’t read it because Mrs. Pelosi reneged on her promise to post the legislation online 72 hours before the scheduled vote. Neither, apparently, had members of Congress read it, given the hefty volume of legal language and the skimpy allotment of time to digest it all.

Last year’s 1,100-page $800 billion stimulus bill was made available to lawmakers and the public just 13 hours before it was approved. It is obvious now - with the unemployment rate still stuck at 9.6 percent - that for what the nation received in return, the price was not right. Also, the 2,300-page financial regulatory reform bill passed in July purportedly was intended to add federal oversight to banks and protect consumers from predatory lending practices. Whether the law actually accomplishes these goals depends on regulations that have not even been written yet, let alone read.

It’s dangerous that when Democrats on Capitol Hill rush through poorly examined legislation, Americans don’t have ready recourse in the manner that state attorneys general have employed in freezing potentially fraudulent house foreclosures. Voters, however, can prevent ill-considered acts by Congress in the future by using the ballot box on Nov. 2 to foreclose on this House and Senate and send members packing.

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