Economy & Budget

Losing the Common Ground

If the Washington Post is correct, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) is helping Democrats write the Iraq war-spending bill in the House, but Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) hasn't been contacted by the Democratic leadership in that chamber. Snowe is one of the top three most moderate Republicans now serving in the Senate and a clear pick up for the Democrats on these showdown votes on Iraq; she even supported the resolution opposing the war. Now as they hunker down for the funding fight Snowe is siding with Republicans but was quoted in the paper as saying "it wouldn't take a lot" to win her over.

What's wrong with these people? The two parties are supposed to work hard to find common ground, not work hard to ignore it when it obviously exists. Sure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has joined with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on legislation to cut off war funding by March 31, 2008 — but he hasn't engaged Snowe, who reportedly approves of March 31, 2008 as a target date for ending combat operations.

Reid has a majority of one with Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) still recovering from brain surgery. In a 50-49 Senate, what could possibly be the reason he isn't he looking for more votes?

A Lonely Place

OK, it is still recess and, for us reporters, that means a vacation away from members of Congress (they call it a district work period and they are working hard). So in the absence of the echo chamber, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s newfound support for cutting off funding for the Iraq war seemed like one of those passing remarks he is fond of. And later, as it was buried by the Don Imus brushfire, it began to feel like something I had dreamt and not actually read.

But Congress is set to return to town next week and Reid has indeed boldly moved himself outside the mainstream position of his party, a lonely place one cannot exactly return from with ease. He has aligned himself with Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and supports his legislation for an end to funds come March 31, 2008. Reportedly, Reid made this decision following an emotional visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but I guess we should assume he has actually weighed this question over weeks, if not months.

Real Estate and Politics

If there was ever a time that politics would influence the real estate markets, the time is now. The nation avoided having the real estate bubble burst, but now we face a credit crisis that will put a squeeze on the economy.

The recent meltdown in the sub-prime mortgage market has already moved lenders to tighten their credit and lending standards — even for the most credit-worthy of borrowers.

While these measures have for the most part been voluntary, regulators are carefully surveying the industry and its players. Given the increased scrutiny and shifts in the regulatory environment, we can look for the industry to tighten lending standards further.