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Fannie, Freddie Bill Gets Another Push

(Ray Lustig)
By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 22, 2005

Key backers of a House bill that would tighten regulation of housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made another appeal to House leaders to bring the stalled measure to the floor for a vote.

House Financial Services Chairman Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) on Tuesday started distributing two letters to lawmakers in an effort to end a stalemate over the legislation, which would create a new regulator for the two companies following multibillion-dollar accounting scandals at both. The bill overwhelmingly passed Oxley's committee in May, and a companion measure also awaits a vote in the Senate.

The letters, which were obtained by The Washington Post, concern a provision in the House bill that would require the companies to set aside a portion of their profit to finance affordable housing. Last week, Oxley and Baker said that they would change the bill to require the two companies to finance housing in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The focus on Katrina survivors, however, failed to persuade conservative critics, prompting House leaders to pull the bill from this week's floor schedule

The affordable housing fund would "significantly improve access to housing in areas with special needs -- particularly those impacted by Katrina," Oxley and Baker wrote in a letter addressed to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). The lawmakers circulated the DeLay letter among GOP members of Oxley's committee to collect signatures of support.

In the other letter, addressed to colleagues, Oxley and Baker attempted to rebut criticism of the fund. The letter countered accusations that the companies would use the fund to reward political allies by citing language in the bill that would prohibit lobbying and advocacy.

The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative lawmakers leading the charge against the affordable housing fund, yesterday proposed other ways Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might help cover Katrina-related costs. The RSC said the federal government could collect nearly $20 million over 10 years if it charged the companies a fee based on the size of their investment portfolios.

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