Brownback claim about bailout vote was wrong

Editor's note: An error in the original version of this story about the bill being signed into law has been corrected.

Although he said otherwise during Saturday's gubernatorial debate, congressional records show Sen. Sam Brownback did vote for the federal government to bail out troubled government-supported mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Senate voting records show Brownback, R-Kan., as a "yes" vote on House Resolution 3221, the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008, which passed the Senate on July 26 of that year.

The bill authorized the U.S. Treasury to buy unlimited securities from the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac). The Senate vote sent the bill on to President Bush, who signed it into law.

The two government-sponsored enterprises primarily purchase mortgage securities from private-sector brokers to help maintain cash flow in the nation's housing market. Both saw their balance sheets devastated by the subprime mortgage crisis and housing slump in 2008.

In response to HR 3221, the Treasury increased government-sponsored credit available to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by $100 billion each.

In Saturday's debate at the State Fair in Hutchinson, state Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the Democratic nominee for governor, criticized Brownback for supporting the measure.

"My opponent Sam Brownback, he's never balanced a budget in Washington, but he's been more than happy to spend your money," Holland said during the debate. "Sen. Brownback voted $200 billion to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

When his turn came to speak, Brownback stated: "To set the record straight, I voted against the bailout, I'm sorry you can't figure that out."

He then changed the subject to President Obama's health care bill.

Asked after the debate to clarify his statement, Brownback emphatically stated "I did not vote to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

He referred to his vote on proposed amendments to Senate Bill 3217, a financial services reform bill. The amendments were voted in May of this year, almost two years after the vote on HR 3221.

Brownback said he supported a Republican-backed Senate amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to audit the agencies and wind down their operations, and opposed a Democrat-supported amendment by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., to require the Treasury Department to study a menu of options for ending government conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"The Democrats in Congress don't want Fannie and Freddie audited," Brownback said. "And they don't want it brought within fin-reg, the financial regulatory system ... The Democrats all voted against McCain Amendment because it was real, and they all voted for the Dodd Amendment because it was just 'do a study.' "

At a Topeka news conference Wednesday, Holland said Brownback "misrepresented his position during the debate on Saturday."

"There are times when there is no ambiguity, no room for interpretation — times when a vote was cast, not a procedural vote but a final one and a person said either yea or nay," Holland added. "That cannot be spun, brushed aside, or explained away. It is a matter of fact and a matter of record."

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag conceded that Brownback did vote for the Foreclosure Prevention Act, but said he has voted repeatedly for increased oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

She also criticized Holland for not saying how he would have voted on the bailout measure.