President Barack Obama kicked off a tour of the West Coast Monday, and made a stop in Las Vegas to unveil an initiative to help ease the woes of struggling homeowners, while at the same time scolding Congress for its inaction on job creation.
Stymied by Republican opposition to his widely promoted jobs package, the president has decided to put forth measures that can be achieved without direct congressional input.
Obama criticized what he called a "dysfunctional" Congress:
"We can't wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won't act, I will."
Obama decided to announce his plan in Las Vegas, which is considered the epicenter of the American real estate crash.
"Nationwide, more than 10 million homeowners are underwater. That means they owe more than those houses are worth. And here in Las Vegas, the city hit hardest of all, almost the entire housing market is under severe stress," Obama said.
The intent of part of the Obama plan is to relax the rules governing the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) that enable mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be refinanced at lower rates.
The HARP plan, which was instituted in 2009, was designed to help millions of recession-impacted homeowners, but inevitably provided relief to fewer than a million borrowers, according to Agence France-Presse.
Currently, people whose home values are more than 25 percent below what they owe are prohibited from refinancing at lower rates.
Obama said the latest changes will lift the restrictions, eliminate certain refinancing fees, reduce closing costs, and encourage a greater impetus for refinancing businesses among lenders.
Republicans were quick to criticize Obama's plan. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said:
"It's another day in the campaign life of President Obama, and he's bringing his re-election tour to Nevada, ground zero for the damaging effects of his failed economic policies."