Senate takes step toward mortgage reform

Congress could take a big step next week on the long road to housing reform, as senators will tackle a bipartisan measure to overhaul the mortgage market.
The bipartisan measure is seen by many as Congress’s best shot at reworking a housing market that practically everyone agrees needs an overhaul after the subprime mortgage collapse.
Advocates for the measure hope a strong showing at the committee level could grease the skids for full Senate consideration, with an eye toward pressuring the House to also act.
Housing finance reform has proven elusive for years, and many think an election year is not the ideal climate in which to push comprehensive legislation. Many will be watching to see how Johnson-Crapo gets treated on Thursday for a hint of what’s possible.
Before they dig in to the housing bill, the committee will vote on a trio of nominees to join the Federal Reserve. Stanley Fischer appears poised to be the Fed’s next vice chairman, and Jerome Powell and Lael Brainard look to be on track to move forward as members of the Fed board.
The week will also bring new clues about the state of the economy. The Fed will meet Tuesday and Wednesday, after which it’s expected to announce it will continue to trim the size of its stimulus to the economy.
And Friday brings the April jobs report, which economists will examine to see if warmer weather has helped to expand hiring.
Elsewhere in Congress, the House is set to take up, and pass, the two easiest appropriations bills for fiscal 2015: the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch bills.
Also related to spending bills, the House Appropriations panel is expected to soon release its spending outlines for all 12 bills, and to prepare a markup of the Commerce, Justice, Science bill.
In a memo circulated Friday, Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorFormer TV journalist gives GOP rare dose of hope in Florida Dave Brat trailing in reelection bid Fake political signs target Democrat in Virginia MORE (R-Va.) said the Commerce, Veterans and Legislative Branch bills would be the first three appropriations measures considered by the House. Appropriators want to enact all 12 bills by Oct. 1, an achievement that hasn’t happened in the last two decades.
That effort could be further complicated by a thirst for policy riders among the rank and file, encouraged by an April 3 memo from Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). The GOP’s chief deputy whip encouraged members to use the spending bills to obtain policy victories.
The House also has a string of other events planned for the committee hearing rooms next week.
On Wednesday, the Budget Committee will explore how the nation tackles poverty, for a second time this year. That hearing comes the same day that Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Wis.) is set to meet privately with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who cried foul after he suggested in March that inner city communities do not value work.
With tax reform’s prospects looking bleak this year, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) will hold a Tuesday markup to extend a half dozen tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. Cantor said in his memo that a permanent extension of one of those expired preferences, the popular credit for business research and development, would likely hit the House floor in the coming weeks.
That same day, the House Financial Services Committee will host Mary Jo White, the Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman, as it takes a close look at her agency. Republicans are expected to closely scrutinize the SEC’s work implementing both the Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial regulations and the JOBS Act.
A Financial Services subcommittee will also meet Tuesday to consider subpoenas for two Consumer Financial Protection Bureau staffers, as the GOP examines potential discrimination at the bureau.
On the other side of the Capitol, Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE, the U.S. trade representative, will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday to discuss President Obama’s trade agenda. The appearance follows a trip to Asia where the U.S. and Japan failed to complete a trade deal widely seen as critical to finishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Finally, the Joint Economic Committee has a hearing slated for Wednesday that would explore how the government analyzes policy, and whether there’s a better way when it comes to regulation. A handful of experts and industry members will be on hand to testify.
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