Wall Street Journal - Developments February 7, 2013By Alan Zibel
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) is among lawmakers calling on
President Obama to nominate a permanent director for the FHFA.
When will the White House finally have something to say about President Barack Obama’s pick to run the FHFA?
That question is on the mind of 45 House Democrats. The lawmakers, led by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) and John Tierney (D., Mass.), sent a letter on Thursday to President Barack Obama urging him to nominate a director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency–-the federal regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“We believe your re-election is a prime opportunity to put forth a new candidate who is ready and willing to implement all of Congress’ directives to meet the critical challenges still facing our nation’s housing-finance markets,” the lawmakers wrote.
The agency’s acting director, Edward DeMarco, has been criticized by Democrats on Capitol Hill, administration officials and liberal groups, all of whom have been calling on Mr. Obama to replace Mr. DeMarco.
Representatives for the White House and Mr. DeMarco were not immediately available for comment.
Why all the fuss about a seemingly obscure regulator? The most prominent area of conflict has been the FHFA’s refusal to accept the Obama administration’s offer to subsidize the cost of debt forgiveness for troubled homeowners.
Obama administration officials argued that Fannie and Freddie could actually save money by doing so but Mr. DeMarco said no, arguing that any potential savings would not be large enough to overcome other costs.
As Developments reported in December, the White House has been exploring potential leaders for the agency.
But the matter does not appear to be especially urgent for the administration as it focuses on confirming leaders for cabinet-level agencies such as the Treasury Department.
Another issue is that it may be difficult to find a FHFA nominee who could clear the Senate, where Republicans are likely to be skeptical of any choice: The administration’s first choice to run the FHFA, former North Carolina banking regulator Joseph Smith, withdrew his name more than two years ago in the face of intense Republican opposition.
Many on the left would like Mr. Obama to use a recess appointment to install Mr. DeMarco’s replacement. But that outcome is now highly unlikely, now after a federal court ruled that Mr. Obama’s use of that method to install three members of a federal labor panel was unconstitutional.
An historical observation relating to this pressure from the left on federal housing policy: