Two Dems join GOP in calling for Countrywide investigation

Susan Crabtree of The Hill has the scoop:

Two junior Democrats are urging their leaders to open an investigation into the Countrywide VIP mortgage program.

Rep. Paul Hodes (N.H.), who is in his second House term, and freshman Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.) called on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel to initiate an investigation into Countrywide Financial's "Friends of Angelo" VIP program and whether it was used to gain influence over federal officials.

They made their case for the investigation in a letter to Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the panel's chairman, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member.

Towns has stood firmly against opening an investigation in the face of months of pressure from Issa and Republicans.

Towns, who received two mortgage loan from Countrywide unit that processed VIP loans but insists he received no special favors, has said he does not want to interfere with a Justice Department probe into the matter.

"The American people deserve to know the truth about these lending practices, and if they had undue influence on federal housing or financial policy based on awarding VIP loans to federal officials," wrote Hodes and Quigley. "We look forward to working with you to undertake a thorough investigation of this program and provide transparency and answers for our constituents."

When did a Justice Department investigation ever stop the Democrats from holding hearings during the Bush administration?

What Townes and other Democrats did (and perhaps some Republicans who may be on the VIP list) probably wasn't illegal. But there is also the probability that it was highly unethical and would be seen that way by the Ethics Committee.

The GOP still needs a few more committee Democrats to force Townes to hold the hearings. Chances are, they won't get them. But there are other ways to skin the congressional cat and the GOP may hold hearings on their own (a favorite tactic of the Democrats when Republicans were in power), or they may be able to force a vote to put the Democrats on record in obstructing the investigation.