The Senate Banking Committee meets today at 10 a.m. to consider a housing finance bill that eliminates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but leaves taxpayers on the hook in the event of another financial crisis.
Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, delayed consideration of the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act (S. 1217) last month in hopes of securing more support for the measure. The committee has enough votes to approve the bill, but several conservatives and as many as six Democrats remain opposed or undecided.
The Heritage Foundation’s Norbert Michel said the bill, known as Johnson-Crapo, is not an improvement over the old system. He appeared on Fox News’ “Special Report” last night to discuss housing finance reform and the Obama administration’s actions on the issue.
As the Senate moves forward, Johnson and Crapo have hailed their plan as a bipartisan solution.
“There is near-unanimous agreement that our current housing finance system is not sustainable in the long-term and reform is necessary to help strengthen and stabilize the economy,” Johnson said. “This bipartisan effort will provide the market the certainty it needs while preserving fair and affordable housing throughout the country.”
In a report released in March, Michel and John Ligon said the Johnson-Crapo bill fails to fix “the problems that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.”
>>> Check Out: The Not-Really-Reform Housing Finance Bill
Although the legislation does eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Michel said it could create hundreds of new government-sponsored enterprises in their place. These new GSEs would receive taxpayer protection in a crisis.
“If the old system was worth saving,” Michel said, “we wouldn’t have had millions of home foreclosures and taxpayers wouldn’t have spent $200 billion to save Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The system does not need to be saved or even tweaked. It needs to be scrapped.”
Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner voiced a similar sentiment in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier yesterday: “If people are worried … are we going to recreate or preserve the same set of systems that contributed to the crisis, that’s a very valid concern. We shouldn’t do that.”
Even if the Senate advances the Johnson-Crapo bill today, the measure faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has his own bill, the PATH Act, which would remove the government from the housing finance business.
>>> Related: Getting Your Neighbor’s Mortgage Off Your Lawn