Financial Services Committee Votes Tuesday on Bill to Shutter Fannie/Freddie
The House Financial Services Committee announced Friday it will meet on Tuesday to consider and begin voting on the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act, which would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and largely privatize the secondary mortgage market.
In a marathon hearing on the bill Thursday that ran seven hours, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said he wanted to mark up the bill before the month-long congressional recess that begins Aug. 5.
However, Democrats objected to the speedy progress on the bill. In particular, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) remarked during the hearing that speaking with constituents during the August break would provide helpful perspective when considering the effects of the legislation.
Despite the extended hours, the hearing boiled down to committee members asking the same highly partisan questions.
Democrats, who oppose the bill, repeatedly asked panelists their opinions about the fate of the 30-year, fixed mortgage under the bill as presently written. For the most part, witnesses from two panels – one consisting primarily of think-tank academics and the other which included financial services providers – agreed that should the bill pass as written, lower- and middle-income consumer access to the popular product would be limited.
By contrast, Republicans, who support the bill, focused on the need for housing finance reform. As they did with the Democrats, witnesses from both panels mostly agreed that the bill created a needed opportunity for reform dialogue – a notion even some Democrats supported in their remarks.
Janice Sheppard, senior vice president of mortgage lending and compliance for the $283 million Southwest Airlines FCU, testified on the financial services panel on behalf of NAFCU.
In her prepared remarks, she was generally supportive of the bill’s regulatory relief provisions; but, she expressed concern that credit unions would retain sufficient access to the secondary market as proposed in the bill.
“While we remain optimistic about the possibilities of the platform, especially in terms of improving efficiencies, we are concerned that the fundamental question of guaranteed access remains to be an uncertain proposition, especially with the winding down of the GSE’s without suitable replacement,” she said.
And in a response to a question from Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), who pressured panelists to answer with a yes or no to his question asking if a privatized housing finance system as proposed in the bill would maintain current homeownership opportunities for low- and middle-income borrowers, Sheppard responded “no” along with other panelists.
Despite friendly banter with Hensarling before the hearing, Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) voiced intense opposition to the bill, calling it “radical” and “unworkable,” and scolding Hensarling for a “lack of interest in making this a partisan effort.”
While Republicans seem ready to push the bill through the conservative-majority House, the bill still faces a tall hurdle: the Democratic-controlled Senate.
However, reform of the secondary mortgage market –including the elimination of government guarantees – is possible.
Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation June 26 that would replacing the GSEs with a privately capitalized system.
Below, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) chats with Sheppard before the hearing. Sheppard’s Dallas-based credit union is located in Hensarling’s district.