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House GOP wants to end emergency mortgage aid

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Friday muscled a bill toward House passage that would kill federal loans to struggling homeowners as the GOP and Democrats waged their latest fight over how to balance frugality and compassion at a time of massive federal deficits.

The legislation would end a program offering loans to homeowners who can’t make mortgage payments because they’ve lost their jobs or become ill.

Republicans said it makes sense to cut spending for unneeded programs in the face of huge budget deficits.

Democrats say ending the assistance would be cruel at a time when high unemployment and the ailing housing market have put millions of homeowners in financial jeopardy. The White House has threatened to veto the bill.

Friday’s debate became emotional on both sides.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, likened the government’s growing debt to “fiscal child abuse,” while Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said Americans don’t want to finance programs that end up sending money “down a rat hole.”

“The American people are not rats,” countered Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said, “Sometimes I think we forget that this is America.”

The $1 billion Emergency Mortgage Relief Program was created in last year’s financial overhaul law, but has yet to make any loans.

The House approved a similar GOP bill on Thursday abolishing a program helping people refinance whose homes are worth less than they originally paid for them. In coming days it will debate two other measures erasing two other housing aid initiatives.