WASHINGTON — While lawmakers have grown increasingly pessimistic about the chances to significantly revamp the Dodd-Frank Act, they are hopeful that housing finance reform — which has bedeviled Congress for the past nine years — may finally have a shot at enactment.

Speaking Thursday before the Women in Housing and Finance group, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo conceded that regulatory reform was a tough lift given ongoing partisan tensions, but signaled that may not be the case with reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“I actually have a greater level of optimism for bipartisanship on the housing finance reform … than some parts of the regulatory reform,” Crapo said.

Speaking to reporters hours later in his office, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling echoed that view, arguing that there was a real chance at reform.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho
“Housing finance is a priority for the committee and it is a high priority for the administration and there appears to be an interest” from both Democrats and Republican, said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo. Bloomberg News

“This is the first time since I have been in Congress — I think all three relevant parties have a commitment to getting this done,” Hensarling said, saying that the House, Senate and White House are all committed to the idea.

Hensarling and Crapo both mentioned a meeting they had earlier in the day with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. The conversation was focused on regulatory reform rather than housing finance, but Hensarling said he expects to discuss the mechanics of GSE reform with them soon.

Hensarling and Crapo said prior work on their respective committees will give them a leg up on moving legislation quickly.

In 2014, Crapo and the then-chairman of the Senate Banking panel, Tim Johnson, D-S.D., led efforts on housing finance reform. Meanwhile, Hensarling moved his own legislation, the Path Act, in the House.

“We have already done a whole lot of work on the issue and we look forward to updating that particular legislation,” Hensarling said of the Path Act.

During his comments, Crapo noted that “a lot of the same players that were involved in that process are again involved.” Twelve of the 23 Senate Banking committee members were part of the 2014 talks.

Crapo said that, while there will certainly be philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans, “I am confident that we will be able to find a path forward.”

“Housing finance is a priority for the committee and it is a high priority for the administration, and there appears to be an interest” from both Democrats and Republican for reform, Crapo said.

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