The Bush administration took its concerns about a Senate housing bill to Capitol Hill yesterday, challenging senators to delete new construction programs and target existing housing programs to favor the poor.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and Office of Management and Budget director Richard G. Darman met with five members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee just before the Senate took up the National Affordable Housing Act, a major restructuring of the nation's housing programs.
Participants said there is broad agreement on the need for a housing bill this year, but significant roadblocks remain.
Those disagreements, as Kemp outlined in a letter last week to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), chairman of the banking subcommittee on housing and urban affairs, involve the administration's concern that the Senate approach fails to address fundamental problems at HUD.
"I am convinced that flawed programs were as much to blame for HUD scandals as political appointees who tolerated or encouraged abuses," Kemp wrote. "As important as it is to pass major housing legislation this year, I believe it would be a step backward to repeat these past mistakes by institutionalizing profiteering and political influence-peddling at the local level." He described the Senate approach as a block grant that would shift power from federal to local governments.
Kemp and Darman pointed out that the Senate bill, sponsored by Cranston and Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) is $4 billion over the administration's proposed budget.
One participant described yesterday's meeting as "promising" and said administration officials made no veto threats.
Kemp aide Mary Brunette was more pessimistic. "As it stands, the administration would oppose the bill," she said.