WASHINGTON — House Financial Services Chairman Michael G. Oxley offered the first clues of his legislative agenda in a press statement Thursday, but drew the most attention for what was excluded.

The Ohio Republican’s priorities notably lacked any mention of strengthening the regulation of government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Reforming Fannie and Freddie has long been a crusade of Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., the capital markets subcommittee chairman, but Rep. Oxley did not include the issue in his outline of what each subcommittee’s priorities would be.

“People are going to look at this from Mr. Oxley and infer that he doesn’t attach a very high priority to Fannie and Freddie issues,” said Bert Ely, an independent consultant in Alexandria, Va., and critic of the enterprises.

A banking industry official speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Rep. Oxley’s statement could be interpreted to mean that the committee would back off of Fannie and Freddie legislation.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Oxley was said the statement should by no means be taken that way, and cautioned against anyone reading too far into it.

“The news release delineated a couple of items in each subcommittee’s area that Rep. Oxley is interested in pursuing, and should not be taken as a comprehensive agenda list,” the spokeswoman said.

Yet the release served to fan speculation that Fannie and Freddie were gaining political ground.

The first setback to advocates of reforming the enterprises came when Rep. Baker suddenly canceled a news conference for Thursday during which he was expected to reiterate that the legislation would be his subcommittee’s top priority.

Rep. Baker said that when he scheduled the event he “had expected that membership of his subcommittee would have been in place.” Rep. Oxley announced the Republican members of the subcommittees midday Thursday along with key issues that each panel plans to tackle.

Industry observers also saw hope for Fannie and Freddie in remarks made by Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. In an interview published Wednesday by Bloomberg News, Mr. O’Neill said that he is not taking a position on any legislation to reform the enterprises and described Fannie chief executive officer Franklin Raines as a “close, personal friend.”

Mr. Ely said that “one can conclude that Fannie and Freddie have really scored some political victories here, but I think it is still too early to see where everything will be when the dust settles.”

In his release, Rep. Oxley sketched some general priorities, such as securities reform, a review of the implementation of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and international financial privacy issues.


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