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Public Statements

Federal Housing Finance Reform Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2007)


Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I am always reluctant to rise in opposition to my colleague from North Carolina, because he is my close colleague from North Carolina. He is right next door to my congressional district, well, one county removed, I guess. So it's burdensome when I have to rise in opposition to his amendments.

But this one I feel strongly about. First of all, I have heard this argument several times today that this imposes some kind of tax on middle-class and low-income homeowners. I think, if you look into this, you will find that this money is either going into a trust fund, which we all support to increase homeownership and affordable housing in this country, or, as has been the case throughout Fannie and Freddie's existence, it is going to the shareholders of Fannie and Freddie.

There is no passing along of savings, no enhancement of credit to additional home buyers. This is a choice between whether the shareholders get it or if we were going to finance affordable housing by the government, whether the taxpayers would be paying for it, which this trust fund really shields the taxpayers from having put up this money. That's my first argument.

The second concern I have is that this trust fund would sunset in 5 years, and we have, as a Congress, if we pass this bill and it survives through the whole process, we will have legislated this into existence.

The effect of this amendment would be to allow the director of this new agency with all these enhanced powers that we have given to him, to unlegislate what we have legislated, which I think is an inappropriate delegation of our authority.

Now, it may be that we make a bad decision to legislate it, but we recognize that by putting a 5-year sunset in the provision and allowing ourselves to come back and correct our own decision if we find that the decision was erroneous.

It is not good from my vantage point, to say to a director of any Federal agency, we passed this as a policy matter, and we are going to give you the authority to reverse it.

Now, if some independent body were making this determination, it were a study, as the gentleman indicated, we agreed to a study by the GAO and put it in the bill. That would be an appropriate mechanism for us to get feedback where we could undo this at the end of 5 years or renew it at the end of 5 years, but that's different than saying to the director, you can go if you determine that A, B or C exists, and you can unwind what the Congress of the United States told you is the law of the land.

So if the gentleman were inclined to offer this as part of this study, which we approve, I think it might be an appropriate way to proceed, because it would help to inform us. The GAO would do the study, they would tell us what their results were, and if we agreed with them that it was a big enough mistake, then we could, even before the 5 years, we could go back and correct it. But I don't want any director of some agency to be passing legislation either directly or indirectly.

For that reason, I think this is not a good amendment. I encourage my colleagues to defeat it.


Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

I won't take 5 minutes. I just want to remind Members that we've just spent an awful lot of time arguing about something that has nothing to do with this bill, and that there are a number of other amendments. And I fear that at some point tonight, we will regret this detour on which we have engaged.

It illustrates, and the gentleman who is in his first term here will appreciate why the rules of the House are constructed as they are. You don't have a provision to transfer this to the debt because if there were a provision in your amendment to transfer it to the debt or to Social Security, this amendment would be non germane to this bill. And without germaneness rules, you can go off and talk about, for as long as you want, as they do in the Senate sometimes, about anything that they want to talk about.

But the amendment that you have offered is marginally germane because you didn't do what you say you wanted to do. And you've made the point that, Mr. Chairman, he's made the point that he wanted to make, I'm sure, to his constituents.

So I would hope that we could get back to the amendments that are germane and relevant to this bill, and maybe finish this bill tonight. It would be wonderful.


Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

I have been reading the amendment. And the first part of the amendment really does exactly what the bill does, it tells the director to set up some guidelines, and that is what the director is authorized to do under this bill. So that's not troublesome.

But then you get to page 2 of the amendment, and then you have the requirement that there be a settlement procedure which is duplicative of the settlement procedure that already exists under law. You have the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act already in place. There is going to be a separate set of disclosures now related to this. And then the gentleman has the nerve to say that we are creating a bureaucracy and adding costs to the closing process.

I, for the life of me, can't understand why this would be a good idea.

The first part of the amendment is fine, because that is what the bill is all about. But it is already in the bill. Why would you have two disclosures, two sets of disclosures? We have had hearing after hearing after hearing about how to simplify the disclosure process at closings. Mr. McHenry from my own State offered an amendment to the bill in committee that tried to put forth a one-page disclosure statement, and here we are now with you all telling us we ought to have a second set of disclosures at a closing under this trust fund. It is inconsistent, and it is obvious what this is about, is to throw every stumbling block in the way that you can to discourage the trust fund.

We had an amendment earlier that was defeated in the last series of votes. Mr. Bachus offered the amendment, the ranking member of the full committee, that would have stripped the trust fund out of the bill. You lost that amendment. You lost that amendment. To go every other conceivable way to try to do identically what the overwhelming majority of this House has already said it is not willing to do seems to me to be counterproductive.

Let me just address one other issue. Mr. Price from Georgia raised this earlier. We have to at some point say, look, we have had more open rules out of committee under Chairman Frank's chairmanship this year than all of the last 8 years in this House, and at some point the notion that we can continue to bring bills to the floor under open rules when we have 15 different amendments that essentially say the same thing over and over again, and then have one of your Members get up and say, well, because one of your Members was not allowed to amend his faulty amendment it is not an open rule, it is insulting to the Chair of this committee and it is insulting to this institution.

So this is yet another example to do what was failed to be done in the ranking member's amendment, and I ask my colleagues to defeat it once again.


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