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Obama calls for program to rescue homeowners

CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama is calling for a new program focused on keeping homeowners facing bank foreclosure from losing their homes and wants to see some form of government assistance provided to the nation’s struggling auto industry.

In an interview with CBS “60 Minutes,” to be aired tonight, Obama said efforts to restore the nation’s economy “have not focused on foreclosures and what’s happening to homeowners as much as I would like.”

“We’ve got to … set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes. That is going to have an impact on the economy as a whole,” Obama said in a transcript of the interview released Saturday. “And, you know, one thing I’m determined is that if we don’t have a clear focused program for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office.”

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last week proposed a $24 billion plan aimed at providing incentives to lenders and offering government guarantees to offset any loss from loan modifications. The Bush White House has no plans to proceed with the program, but some Democrats in Congress may try to advance it in the next administration.

Obama also said that despite congressional reluctance to move ahead with government help for the auto companies, he was urging management and labor to work with suppliers and lenders to come up with a plan that could provide a “bridge loan” for a “sustainable” auto industry.

On Saturday, Obama also moved forward with the selection of key White House staff members, including naming veteran Democratic congressional staffer Philip Schiliro to the post of administration lobbyist to push Obama’s agenda on Capitol Hill.

Obama also named longtime friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman and real-estate developer, to be a White House senior adviser on intergovernmental relations and public liaison. Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Al Gore, was named to that same post for Vice President-elect Joseph Biden.

“These individuals will be essential members of our team as we work to bring Republicans and Democrats together to strengthen our struggling economy and make Washington work for all Americans,” Obama said in a statement.


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