Hensarling officially tapped to head Financial Services panel

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One major initiative the panel is expected to take on in the coming months is overhauling the nation's housing finance system, as government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to dominate the mortgage market, despite requiring billions in government support to stay afloat. Hensarling had previously sponsored sweeping housing overhaul bills that would remove that government lifeline in just a few years, leaving Fannie and Freddie to either be dissolved or function as fully private entities.

Republicans identified housing reform as a top priority after taking control of the House in 2010, but failed to advance any significant measures to advance that goal through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Hensarling has also been a fierce critic of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and his comments suggest his panel could look at altering or rolling back some of its provisions under his leadership.

Previously a member of GOP leadership, as head of the House Republican Conference, Hensarling did not face a challenger for the spot being vacated by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.). who exhausted his term limit as the top Republican on the banking panel. Hensarling served as vice chairman of the panel in the 112th Congress.

He is widely expected to be joined at the top of the panel by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who will replace Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as the top Democrat of the panel after he retires at the end of 2012.