The capital markets subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee held a markup on Tuesday for eight small bills related to reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. At the markup, congressional Democrats on the committee employed several parliamentary tactics to stall the votes. Democrats frequently demanded for a quorum call, according to a Republican staffer with the committee, and then each Democratic member would leave to deny the committee a quorum. The hearing lasted over 12 hours.
The video below shows a half-empty committee room during one such quorum call:
Eventually, the eight bills did pass, including suspension of executive compensation, empowerment of the Federal Housing Finance Authority’s inspector general, and elimination of federal affordable housing goals. Most passed by either a voice vote or a wide majority, though one bill which clarifies that Fannie and Freddie will be held up to the same standards as other secondary mortgage market participants passed unanimously. The bills will now go to the full committee for consideration.
The ranking Democratic member on the subcommittee, Maxine Waters of California, explained in her opening statement her opposition to so-called “piecemeal” reform of Fannie and Freddie. “Naturally, any comprehensive proposal we undertake will inevitably need to include shorter-term provisions to address how we transition from where we are to where we want to be,” Waters said. “However, undertaking these short-term steps without a vision for what comes next is a risky strategy, given that the entirety of the American housing finance system is at stake.”
A staff member for one Democratic member of the committee said that the delay tactics were meant to “expose the rift” within the GOP over the best way to reform the housing government-sponsored enterprises. On one side, he says, are those Republicans who want to make small reforms incrementally; on the other are those like Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who has a bill to completely end the federal conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie.
Republican staffers say there’s no such rift and that the caucus is all on the same page when it comes to “winding down” Fannie and Freddie. The eight bills that passed, Republicans say, complement the Hensarling bill.