A White House Setback

It was almost poetic timing - on the 101st day of the Obama Administration - as the Senate rejected plans from the White House to let bankruptcy judges alter the terms of a mortgage to help people facing home foreclosure.

The mortgage and banking industries fought this hard for weeks, rejecting deals offered by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who castigated them on the Senate floor.

"The banks have resisted this change to do something about mortgage foreclosures," Durbin said.

"Their primary concern is squeezing every last cent out of a mortgage loan," fumed Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

The industry though argued that giving bankruptcy judges the authority to tinker with the terms of a mortgage would have financial repercussions in the future - in other words - mortgage costs would go up.

It was one of the first serious legislative setbacks for the White House, but it wasn't something that officials had fought for in public, leaving that to Democrats in the Senate.

In the end, Durbin and Schumer couldn't even muster a majority, as the plan lost on a 51-45 vote.

The defeat does not end efforts on home foreclosure, as a bill will soon be in the hands of congressional negotiators on that very subject.

The provision might not be completely dead, since there was a watered down version that made it through the House.

But with backers unable to even claim a majority in the Senate, the cramdown idea seems unlikely to be expanded in a House-Senate conference committee.

That definitely isn't exactly what the White House had envisioned, a reminder of how difficult it is to take on a major industry, which has its own cadre of supporters and lobbyists.