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Housing, economy take center stage in election

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White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, asked by a reporter Wednesday if the Bush administration's "deregulatory approach" helped create the housing and financial market meltdown, deflected blame to Congress. Perino said congressional lawmakers have thwarted HUD's attempts to overhaul the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and passed legislation to modernize FHA and strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only after years of haggling. "We've been calling for years for (government-sponsored enterprises') reform, and Congress did not act until there was a crisis at hand," Perino said. "We asked for RESPA reform, which would help people clarify their closing costs, so that everybody understands exactly what they're getting into. Congress failed to act. We are now in the middle of a rule-making process that the Democrats are trying to block. There's FHA modernization that we asked for, so that we could improve that agency. W...