Key House Republican moves to kill Fannie, Freddie

Reuters Business News
Posted: Mar 17, 2011 1:36 PM
Key House Republican moves to kill Fannie, Freddie

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday said he would try for the third time to eliminate government controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within five years.

"We have waited for years to do something. It is time to start doing something," Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling, the fourth ranking House Republican, said in an interview with a small group of reporters in his office.

Hensarling said he would reintroduce on Thursday his legislation to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within two years of passage. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would then enter receivership or be placed back into the market for "limited" operations for a maximum of three more years. After that, the private market would take over.

The White House and Congress are in the midst of a major policy debate on how to overhaul the finance system for buying U.S. homes, which collapsed in 2008.

The Bush administration in September 2008 seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage finance behemoths which own or guarantee more than half of the $10.6 trillion of U.S. mortgages.

That government control was meant to be temporary, but two and a half years later the process of crafting legislation for a long-term solution is just beginning.

Hensarling hopes his legislation, which went nowhere twice when Democrats controlled the chamber, would gain approval now that Republicans are in charge.

"Hopefully the third time is a charm," Hensarling said.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have taken more than $134 billion in direct taxpayer aid and the government estimates that total could climb as high as $259 billion.

The government, through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration, is now backing almost nine in 10 new mortgages.

(Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; Editing by Diane Craft)