WASHINGTON - appears to be striking back after an abortive try last week to impose user fees on securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Tuesday, he asked the House Banking Committee, which oversees the Federal National Mortgage Association and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., as the two secondary market agencies are formally known, to "explore the possibility" of privatizing them. Last week, Rep. Kasich had tried to include in the 1996 budget user fees on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities. The fees would have raised $700 million a year. Under pressure from House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., Rep. Kasich withdrew the proposed fees. Rep. Gingrich opposed the user fees on grounds they violated the Republican promise of no new taxes. But Rep. Kasich vowed to introduce a bill to privatize the agencies instead. "The U.S. government essentially provides equity capital by bolstering (the) credit ratings" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Rep. Kasich's committee wrote. The committee report added that the federal affiliation benefits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by 30 cents on every $100 of long-term debt they issue. "Presently, they do not compensate the federal government for the benefit even though they are fully private corporations, wholly owned by private stockholders," the report said. The budget committee's view is shared by some large companies that operate private mortgage conduits. The nation's thrifts also see Fannie and Freddie as privileged competitors. Speaking to reporters last week, Fannie Mae chairman James A. Johnson said his agency is willing to discuss some questions, but its organizational status is not at issue, he said. The budget panel's request to the banking committee is not binding, and it was unclear how the banking panel would respond. It is already waiting for reports on the privatization issue from the Treasury Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Congressional Budget Office, and the General Accounting Office.
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