Rep. Robert Dold’s (R-Kenilworth) small business approach to legislation helped make him the first freshman member of Congress this session to pass a bill under his authorship.
Anchored by his small business roots, Dold saw a problem in a law he believed created government waste and went about finding a solution.
“It's not quite that simple in Congress, but I'm trying to take that approach,” Dold said in an interview with Patch. “I tried to bring those on the other side of the aisle on board by reaching out and making the case that this was the right thing to do.”
Sponsored by Dold, the FHA Refinance Program Termination Act passed the House of Representatives March 10 with some bipartisan support (17 Democrats), 256-171. It now goes to the Senate for approval.
The proposed law will eliminate a program that spent $50 million refinancing mortgages that exceeded the value of the property they encumbered. The program has restructured 44 loans since it was initiated in October.
Arriving in Congress with a pledge to create jobs and eliminate government waste, Dold found his first successful project as a member of the Housing, Insurance and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.
“I was looking through the budget at other items and saw this one that was not working,” Dold said.
No longer the boss of his own organization, but a junior member of a much larger one, Dold went to the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale) for guidance and support. He found it.
With Biggert's help, Dold set his staff to work drafting the legislation. Though bipartisan support was not necessary for passage in the House, it would be critical in the Democratic controlled Senate.
Dold established a relationship with Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) early by co- sponsoring legislation to penalize companies who dump waste into Lake Michigan. The relationship paid off when it came time to raise support for Dold's first bill.
“I supported Rep. Dold’s [bill] because the program it would end gave every indication of being an ineffective and inefficient use of scarce taxpayer resources,” Lipinski said. “It managed to attract only about 40 participants, an extraordinarily small number for a federal program with a substantial budget.”
With approximately 10 percent of House Democrats supporting the bill, Dold has set that bar for Democratic support in the Senate. He is hopeful Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park) will help secure passage.
“Senator Kirk has been a friend and mentor; I’m hopeful he will help,” Dold said. “If ten percent of the Democrats [in the Senate] vote for it, we’ll be there.”
Kirk has promised to do everything he can to move the bill through the appropriate Senate committee and onto the floor for a vote. He believes it is worth quick treatment.
“We should be proud of Congressman Dold’s leadership on this important money saving legislation” Kirk said. “Dold's legislative victory ended a wasteful and under-utilized housing program and the Senate should pass the Dold Bill promptly."
Not everyone in Congress believes Dold’s legislation is the best thing for homeowners who are in need of mortgage refinancing. In Illinois alone, 480,627 families live in homes where the amount of the mortgage is greater than the property’s value, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
When the legislation was before Congress last week, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) wanted to keep the program alive for senior citizens. His amendment was defeated, which touched off a protest from the DCCC.
“While cutting Foreclosure Assistance for the 480,627 Illinois families, Representative Bob Dold wouldn’t even preserve it for the seniors who built our nation,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said. “Seniors deserve an opportunity to stay in the home they raised their family [in] and not be driven out.”
The DCCC is the arm of the House Democrats responsible for recruiting candidates for Congress. At least one Democrat, Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan, recently left his position with MoveOn.org to form an exploratory committee to oppose Dold in 2012.
Dold, meanwhile, was pleased with his effort to eliminate a government program he felt was a disservice to the taxpayers.
“I’m proud to be the first freshman to pass legislation in the House in this session of Congress,” Dold said.
Dold will host a Town Hall at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Deerfield Village Hall.