Moving on the House floor next week will be a pair of bills that would eliminate a pair of the administration’s housing relief programs — including the White House’s most visible effort, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). While House Republicans have the votes to pass both bills, it is unlikely they will find similar momentum in the Senate, where Democrats retain control. Despite underwhelming performances, the administration has staunchly defended the programs, calling them essential to the economic recovery.
Elsewhere on the housing front, the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday will hear from a pair of administration officials about the White House’s report on housing finance.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will discuss the plan, which calls for the eventual winding down of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the reentry of the private sector into the nation’s housing market. At another hearing on the report earlier this month, Geithner had to defend the plan from Democrats who worried it would make mortgages harder to get.
On Wednesday, a House Financial Services Committee subcommittee will grill Elizabeth Warren about the developing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Warren, a Harvard law professor, was tasked by the president with setting up the CFPB by July. However, Republicans have repeatedly argued the nascent agency is lacking in congressional oversight, due, in part, to the fact that it is funded outside the annual appropriations process.
That same day, former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Brookings Institution scholar Alice Rivlin will discuss their plan for the nation’s debt. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s debt reduction task force released a comprehensive budget plan in November, which would reform Medicare and Medicaid, stabilize Social Security, and establish a 6.5 percent sales tax devoted to debt reduction.
Rivlin will make a second appearance Thursday on Capitol Hill, where she testifies before the House Budget Committee about ways to secure health and retirement benefits for Americans. She will be joined by several other budget experts.
Also on Tuesday, a panel on the House Oversight Committee will hear from experts from two major ratings agencies about whether there is a coming crisis for state and municipal bonds. As states and localities grapple with large budget shortfalls, some market experts have predicted a number of defaults in the historically sleepy municipal bond market could be looming.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the perpetual Federal Reserve critic, will host his second hearing on the central bank as the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s subcommittee on the Fed. Thursday's hearing will explore the relationship between the Fed’s monetary policy and rising prices. Paul has long accused the Fed of devaluing the dollar.
And the House Ways and Means Committee's Select Revenue Measures subcommittee will delve into a GOP-sponsored bill that would block tax breaks for private healthcare plans that cover abortions.