Senate Banking delays housing finance markup for a few days

Greg Nash

The Senate Banking Committee delayed a housing finance reform markup scheduled to begin Tuesday morning to give lawmakers a few more days to pore over the bill and work out their concerns.

The panel was set to tackle a bipartisan bill crafted by Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and ranking member Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) but senators requested more time to consider potential changes to the legislation coming off a two-week recess.

The bill's authors downplayed the delay, saying they welcomed the additional time to build broader support.

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“There continue to be important discussions to build a larger coalition supporting the bill,” Johnson said Tuesday.

“While we have the votes to report the bill out today, members of the committee have asked for a brief delay to try to work out additional issues prior to a final vote,” he said.

Crapo insisted that the legislation has the support of a bipartisan majority on the committee and that the bill could have been approved and sent to the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“Nevertheless, while I do not relish the idea of a short delay, I am pleased that a number of senators believe with just a brief period of additional time to consider it, they will have the opportunity to productively join us in efforts to reform the current system,” he said.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming days, to listening to their questions or concerns to help us find a bipartisan consensus with even stronger votes."

Without a strong committee vote, though, the measure would likely struggle to gain enough support for a floor vote sometime this year.

The bill would eliminate government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over five years and replace them with a Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC).

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a panel member whose housing reform measure co-authored with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) is the base for Johnson-Crapo, said the current measure has a “solid” majority of support on the committee.

“We had meetings until very, very late last night and there are other members who have expressed interest,” he said.

“Instead of passing it out, which we easily could have done today, we’re going to have a little more conversation."

Corker said the aim is to resolve the majority of concerns and bring more members on board before sending the measure to the floor. 

“We thought that was a helpful thing to do prior to going to the floor,” he said.

The Johnson-Crapo measure has garnered broad support from the housing industry but the delay didn’t come as a surprise to David Stevens, head of the Mortgage Bankers Association, who said lawmakers needed some time to play catch-up after the recess when they were probably focused on a vast array of other issues.

Stevens made the point that the housing finance reform legislation is “as meaty” as the Dodd-Frank law and it makes sense to give lawmakers more time to wade through a bill of this size and scope and make improvements that could smooth the bill’s passage down the road.

Corker agreed that it “seemed like the wise thing to do, spend a day or two” to focus on the complex bill after the recess.

“There’ll be some discussions and we’ll see where this goes. Either way we know we’ve got a bill that can move forward.” 

This posted was updated at 11:30 a.m.