President-elect Clinton and the House Democratic and Republican leadership will make some important decisions this week that will affect the fortunes of the housing finance industry.
If Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, is selected as Treasury secretary, it will be good news to supporters of special incentives for housing investment. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Bentsen has been a firm believer in the use of the tax system to promote savings and investment.
He is at least the godfather of individual retiremen accounts and his version of last year's tax bill also included a tax credit for first-time home buyers.
Another probable consequence of a Bentsen move to Treasury would be the appointment of a top aide, Harry L. Guttman, as either Internal Revenue Service commissioner or assistant secretary for tax policy. Guttman is the highly respected chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, which Bentsen chairs.
While the names of the Clinton economic team are expected to be known this week. less certain is whether other top posts, including the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will be filled at the same time.
Two African Americans are at the top of the list for the HUD job: Vincent Lane, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, and Terrence R. Duvernay, who heads the Georgia Housing Finance Finance Agency and was top aide to Moon Landrieu, who served as HUD secretary at the end of the Carter administration.
Other possible candidates are Bob Nash, director of the Arkansas Development and Financing Authority, and Mayors Raymond Flynn of Boston and Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore.
While the HUD secretary is one of 27 major posts that will be filled soon, other housing-related appointments, including director of the new Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, will come much later, after potential candidates have been thoroughly investigated by the Clinton transition team.
Meanwhile, the House will begin its party caucuses Dec. 7 and part of the process will be to elect leaders and committee chairmen and to make committee assignments. A spokesman for the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee said there have been several applications for seats on the Banking Committee, which is losing at least 11 Democrats. The Republicans, who are losing at least three members from the panel, are not expected to complete work on committee assignments until early next week.
The Senate Democrats won't announce committee assignments until after Congress returns Jan. 5. The Republicans, who have not yet selected a new chairman for the Committee on Committees, have not decided when assignment decisions will be made.
The Senate Banking Committee lost two Democratic members to defeat and two to retirement, including Alan Cranston, D-Calif., who headed the Housing Subcommittee. While Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn, expressed an interest in the position, the subcommittee chair apparently will go to Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.,
The only Republican, thus far, to leave the committee is retiring Sen. Jake Garn of Utah, who will be succeeded as ranking minority member by Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York. He is considered a strong advocate of housing programs.
There has been much speculation about how high a priority the Clinton administration will place on banking legislation but housing initiatives are a vital part of his economic stimulus plan.
On the Senate side, much of the early action will be dominated by consideration of key nominations, including the secretaries of HUD and Treasury, the heads of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the members and chair of the Federal Housing Finance Board and the new Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.