WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Just as Congress prepares to take a close look at Fannie Mae ( FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac ( FMCC.OB), some of the lawmakers closest to housing-finance policy are about to exit their positions.
Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama
Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), who heads the Senate Banking Committee, is retiring. His Senate seat will be filled by fellow Democrat Richard Blumenthal, while his chairman position will be taken over by Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.), who has been groomed to succeed Dodd for months. Perhaps more worrisome to Democrats is the House Financial Services Committee, whose current chairman, Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), will no longer be in the majority. Democrats also lost an important member of the committee, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Pa.), who was defeated by Republican Lou Barletta on Tuesday evening. Kanjorski is second-in-command under Frank and chairs the subcommittee that oversees Fannie and Freddie. Frank's likely successor as chairman, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R., Ala.), has been a harsh critic of bailouts, stimulus programs, Democrats' reform proposals and housing-finance policy during his years as ranking member of the minority since 2006. After his party's victory in the House, Bachus appeared on CNBC, saying he expects to take over the financial-services committee. "We're going to have vigorous oversight," Bachus promised, adding that, under Democratic control, "we've had no oversight." In recent months, Bachus has become a tough critic of Fannie and Freddie - pledging to shut them down, asking for investigations into their practices and railing against their continued receipt of taxpayer funds. Bachus also voted against the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, saying: "This is not real reform." "We have seen the anger and frustration generated by the injustice of 'too big to fail' bailouts," Bachus said in a statement at the time. "We have seen the folly of implied guarantees as with Fannie and Freddie. We have seen time after time the failure of government-run schemes to create jobs and grow the real economy. Nevertheless, here the Majority party is again, doing the same thing over and over, blindly hoping that suddenly this time they'll get a different result." Bachus seems sure to be a thorn in the side of Democrats if they hope to pass any kind of housing-finance reform in the next two years. The Obama administration plans to outline a strategy in January. From the discussions thus far, it seems unlikely that Democrats are keen on allowing the government to exit the mortgage market completely.