President Barack Obama visits north Reno neighborhood |

President Barack Obama visits north Reno neighborhood

President Barack Obama greets a baby in the crowd at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Reno, Nev., Friday, May 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)
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President Barack Obama visited a north Reno neighborhood Friday to encourage people to pressure Congress to expand his mortgage refinance program to all homeowners.

He said Paul and Valerie Keller successfully refinanced their home, saving nearly $3,000 a year. But he said that without congressional action to change the law, only those homeowners financed with a Federal Housing Administration-backed loan are eligible.

“We did what we could do administratively,” he said.

He said that legislation is being prepared to expand the program to all mortgage lenders and that the public should pressure Congress to pass it.

The mortgage plan is one of five items on the “to-do list” Obama has prepared for Congress.

Flanked by the Kellers, and before an audience of their neighbors who were practically outnumbered by the press, he said that list is different from what congressional Republicans are proposing.

“There are things we can do right now to create jobs,” he said. “But there are far too many Republicans who don’t seem to be as optimistic as we are.”

He said the problem is the GOP wants to do the same things the nation has been doing, such as cut taxes and give businesses more breaks.

“That’s their economic agenda,” Obama said. “I don’t buy it. They’re wrong. We’ve tried these ideas for a decade, and it didn’t work.”

In addition to the mortgage refinance legislation, he wants Congress to end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs oversees. He said those breaks should go instead to companies that bring jobs back from overseas.

He said small businesses should get breaks for hiring more people and paying higher wages. He said tax breaks for energy companies should be extended to “help break our dependence on foreign oil” and possibly bring down the price of gasoline.

And he said he wants to create a veterans’ job corps to get jobs, including in law enforcement and public safety, for returning veterans.

Obama said the Kellers tried for months to get their home refinanced but were unable until he made his announcement in Las Vegas, changing the rules for federally backed mortgage loans. The change, he said, cut their monthly payment by $240.

“If Paul and Valerie have an extra $240 a month, they might spend it at a local business, go to restaurants more often or spend it spoiling their grandchildren,” he said.

He said the same is true of thousands of other homeowners whose homes are privately financed.

“We want to include everybody,” Obama said.

He said all those families saving up to $3,000 a year they could spend elsewhere “would be a huge boost to our economy.”

He called on Congress to “put politicking aside, put electioneering aside and do the right thing.”

The event was not open to the public except residents of the neighborhood.

Obama spent more than 20 minutes shaking hands with the small crowd of area residents temporarily displaced by the security and staff who accompany the president everywhere.

Robert Mack said he had never seen a president before and was looking forward to the event.

John Staub said the press section and sound equipment were set up in his front yard but he didn’t mind.

“It’s a big event for our little neighborhood,” he said.

David Quintero said it’s also a safe neighborhood for the president because there’s only one way in and out for the Secret Service and police to watch.