Senate panel advances nominees for FHFA, NCUA

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday narrowly advanced Mark Calabria’s nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The committee voted along party lines, with all 13 Republican senators voting in favor and all 12 Democrats opposing Calabria's appointment. The Republican majority in the full Senate is likely to confirm him.

The panel also approved the nominations of Bimal Patel to serve as the assistant Treasury secretary of financial institutions and of Rodney Hood and Todd Harper to serve on the board of the National Credit Union Administration. Seth Appleton and Robert Hunter Kurtz were approved by the committee for assistant secretary posts at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If confirmed, Calabria would have a central role in any efforts to reform the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are more than 10 years into federal conservatorships.

Calabria reassured lawmakers at his Feb. 14 nomination hearing that he would “carry out the clear intent of Congress” should lawmakers enact GSE reform, rather than impose his own vision. He also emphasized that he was unaware of an administrative plan to enact housing finance reform that was discussed by acting FHFA Director Joseph Otting.

But Democrats on the committee appeared skeptical that Calabria would enforce the agency’s affordable housing statutes and questioned past comments he made about the GSEs during his tenure at the Cato Institute. However, Calabria told Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at the hearing that he would “absolutely” preserve strong affordable housing goals, as well as the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

“I will absolutely, if confirmed, guarantee to you today that at the end of my five-year term, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will be widely available,” he said.

The committee votes for the five other nominees were conducted by voice vote.

The committee's action just two weeks after the nomination hearing suggests that Calabria could be confirmed as soon as this spring, Jaret Seiberg, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, said in a note.

“Confirmation by the full Senate appears to remain on track for late March or early April,” he said. “There is nothing we heard to suggest that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would renege on this pledge to give Calabria a quick vote on the Senate floor.”

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