Perhaps this is what “Give Congress Heck” looks like. U.S. Rep. Denny Heck looked on at the White House Friday as President Obama signed bills into law that included the first-year lawmaker’s first piece of legislation to pass the House and Senate.
H.R. 2167 is known formally as the Reverse Mortgage Stabilization Act of 2013 and is the first bill from a freshman to change federal law in nine years and one of only 31 bills to pass both chambers in 2013, Heck’s media office said in a news release. It was co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and passed both the House and Senate on voice votes.
Heck, an Olympia Democrat in the state's new 10th Congressional District, campaigned against congressional gridlock – specifically Republican “Tea Party” members – and his slogan was “Give Congress Heck.’’
H.R. 2167 gives the Federal Housing Administration new tools for making sure that the loans are in the interest of elderly owners of homes who borrow against their home value. Heck expects it to reduce the number of problem loans in FHA’s future portfolio, which has a disproportionately high number of troubled reverse mortgage loans.
Without the changes that take effect in September, Heck said last month that FHA was “perilously close” to having to shut down the reverse mortgages program or make changes that would have made far fewer loans available to seniors. The loans help many seniors stay in their homes longer as they age.
Heck had downplayed the chances of a White House ceremony. His spokesman Phil Gardner called it a welcome surprise and said they didn’t expect it to happen until a few days ago. Present for the signing were Heck and Fitzpatrick; Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Carol Galante, Federal Housing Administration commissioner.
In a news release, Heck said:
“I want to thank President Obama for signing this bill into law today, and I also want to thank my colleague from Pennsylvania, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, for his work on this bill. It’s still possible to get things done in Washington, D.C. if you’re willing to reach across the aisle and focus on the substance of issues …
“Today’s winners are senior citizens and bipartisanship. The FHA can now act quickly to make necessary and common sense reforms to the federal reverse mortgage program. Hundreds of thousands of seniors currently utilize federal reverse home mortgages, and the FHA will now be able to continue this useful program into the future.”