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April 25, 2015

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Ensign votes against housing bill that passes Senate

WASHINGTON -- With one in 43 Nevada homeowners now facing the possibility of foreclosure, Republican Sen. John Ensign voted this morning against Congress' sweeping mortgage relief package now headed for President Bush's signature.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the package during a rare Saturday session with support from all Democrats present and half the Senate's Republicans. The bill similarly swept through the House earlier this week as the nation's housing woes worsen, despite objections from Republican leaders that it was a bailout.

With the state hard hit by the mortgage mess, all of Nevada's other lawmakers in Washington have voted for the package.

The bill could help hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure refinance their loans at lower rates. It includes the Bush administration's plan to give the federal government broad but temporary authority to shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose problems pose grave economic threats.

Ensign said he realizes homeowners face tough times, but worried the bill would cause more harm in the long run. His office said most of the calls they receive are from those who oppose the bill.

"This bill, I believe, is dumping the burden onto the taxpayer and bailing out a lot of irresponsible lenders," Ensign said in a brief interview Saturday.

"While it has some short-term fixes, in the longer term, I believe it's going to cause the country more serious problems and is going to pass a huge liability on those future generations."

Skeptics worry taxpayers could be held responsible for massive sums if foreclosures worsen.

Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, called the bill's passage an important day for the country.

Nevada's other lawmakers in Washington, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley and Republican Reps. Jon Porter and Dean Heller, all voted for the bill earlier in the House.

The state reported Friday that foreclosure notices for the second-quarter were sent to one in every 43 Nevada households.

Gov. Jim Gibbons expressed hope that the bill in Congress could offer some relief.

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