A bipartisan U.S. Senate plan to dismantle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must clear many political hurdles in a short time if it is to become law, leaving narrow chances of a housing-finance overhaul being enacted this year.
Senate Banking Committee leaders said the proposal, which they plan to introduce later this week, would replace the two U.S-owned mortgage financiers with government bond insurance that would kick in only after private capital sustained severe losses.
It remains unclear whether the measure can gain the support it would need in the next four months, before lawmakers’ attention shifts to midterm elections.
Pressure from the White House, lawmakers and other advocates who want to eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is mounting as the companies return to profitability more than five years after they were bailed out by taxpayers. The bill’s fate will determine how soon the nation’s system of financing home loans is changed from one in which most of the risk is borne by taxpayers into one where private capital take the first losses.
The Johnson-Crapo bill, based on legislation that gained wide backing from members of both parties on the banking panel last year, was written with input from the administration of President Obama and is the most likely vehicle for an overhaul. Democratic senators on the banking panel, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, have said they want to ensure any measure guarantees affordable loans for most buyers and provides funds for rental housing for the poor. Others in their party have yet to signal which way they’re leaning.