Two Dems vie to chair housing subcommittee in congressional shake-up

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WASHINGTON — Two Missouri Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee are vying to chair the housing subcommittee after the November midterm elections gave Democrats control of the lower chamber.

Both Reps. Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver have expressed interest in the post. The subcommittee on Housing and Insurance could be a focal point for ongoing efforts to reform the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Cleaver has served as the top Democrat on the subcommittee for the past four years, but Clay is a more senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. Clay is currently the ranking member of the financial institutions subcommittee. Rep. Greg Meeks, D-N.Y., is vying to chair that panel.

In letters to colleagues, both Clay and Cleaver said they would be committed to bipartisanship if they took the gavel of the housing subcommittee. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is expected to chair the full House Financial Services Committee.

Clay said in a letter to members of the full committee that he would bring the same “spirit of bipartisanship” to the Housing and Insurance subcommittee that he brought when he was the Oversight subcommittee chair in the last Democratic Congress.

“I have considerable knowledge and relationships with stakeholders that can accommodate new perspectives to one of our nation’s most pressing failures-fair and suitable housing,” Clay said. “Further and more specifically, I will continue my fight against redlining by the insurance industry.”

In his letter, Cleaver said he has been interested in the subcommittee ever since he first joined the House in 2005, and said he would continue to push for affordable housing legislation and a long-term solution to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“I aim to address housing affordability — an issue that has reached crisis levels in the last few years,” Cleaver said.

“The National Flood Insurance Program must have a long-term reauthorization,” Cleaver added. “The current trend of short term extensions is unsustainable and has led to confusion for policyholders and stakeholders.”

Democrats and Republicans have largely agreed that the decadelong conservatorships of Fannie and Freddie should end, but have yet to agree on what the housing finance structure should look afterward.

The most recent proposal was unveiled in September. Retiring House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, as well as Reps. John Delaney, D-Md., and Jim Himes, D-Conn., introduced a bill to repeal the GSEs’ charters and transfer some of their responsibilities to Ginnie Mae. But it is unclear whether that proposal has enough support to move through the full House or Senate.

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