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Dodd Tests Senate
As Campaign Perch

As new foreclosure rates were released on Thursday, Sen. Chris Dodd pushed for new legislation to help curb predatory lending practices that have driven the mortgage crisis nationwide. In so doing, he became the latest Democratic contender to try a new approach to running for president: Using the Senate as a platform for action, rather than as a burdensome perch.

Dodd, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said the skyrocketing foreclosure rates were the result of "crazy arrangements" by lenders in recent years - and proposed measures such as ending penalties for prepayments on mortgages and banning lenders from steering borrowers toward more expensive loans. (He is not the only candidate to take on the increasingly potent issue: Sen. Barack Obama, in an opinion piece in the Financial Times last week, called for establishing a fund to help homeowners refinance; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the subject in March, calling for an expansion of the Federal Housing Administration's role in issuing mortgages to working families).

For Dodd, at this point a long-shot candidate for the nomination, the mortgage issue is tailor made for his committee work. "It's a major issue in terms of not only identifying the problem but also solving it," he said in a conference call with reporters.

Look for more candidates in the Senate to use their existing roles to broadcast proposals in the days ahead. Clinton has already made her Senate Armed Services Committee seat a prime part of her candidacy, traveling to Iraq in January and introducing legislation to deauthorize the war earlier this year. Both Clinton and Obama - as well as Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware - will participate in hearings with Gen. David Petraeus on Capitol Hill next week, putting themselves in the spotlight during arguably the most important event of the day. All of them are trying to break the conventional wisdom - and historical precedent - that sitting senators cannot get elected president by demonstrating their on-the-job successes. Little wonder, then, that Sen. John Edwards - who left the Senate after his last term - issued a press release on Thursday blasting Congress for having "failed to do the people's will."

--Anne E. Kornblut

By Washington Post editors  |  September 6, 2007; 4:10 PM ET
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