Fannie and Freddie vanish from debt ceiling proposals
As the debt ceiling talks reached a compromise in Washington, government savings from reducing operations at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disappeared from the latest bipartisan proposal from Congress to raise the debt ceiling. Congress has until Aug. 2 to come to an agreement on how to raise the debt ceiling, according to the Treasury Department. The House is expected to vote on a revamped compromise between the White House and Congressional leaders, including Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Buried in the flurry of negotiations were potential ramifications for Fannie and Freddie, the two mortgage giants that have cost the U.S. government roughly $164 billion in bailouts since the housing downturn. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the original Boehner plan and subsequent Reid proposals would have saved the government $30 billion via reductions to Fannie and Freddie operations. This, sources within the House told HousingWire, would have meant raising the guarantee fees — the fees Fannie and Freddie charge for guaranteeing a pool of mortgages — up 5 basis points. Sources said this contributed more than $26 billion to government "cuts," but it was eventually considered a "tax revenue" and was removed from not only Boehner's proposal but Reid's as well. It was unclear Friday whether the Reid bill had any language pertaining to Fannie and Freddie within it, but an aide for one senator said the situation was "extremely fluid." But on Monday, as details surfaced of the new compromise between Republican and Democratic leaders, sources in congress told HousingWire all language pertaining to Fannie and Freddie have been eliminated. A report released by the CBO Monday morning attributed none of the proposed $917 billion in cuts to reductions in Fannie or Freddie operations. Rumors even flew Friday afternoon of a possible reduction to the conforming loan limit below the reduction that is already scheduled to occur Oct. 1. The conforming loan limit is the maximum amount Fannie and Freddie can purchase or guarantee. In 2008, Congress raised the conforming loan limit to $729,750, but the limit is scheduled to expire Oct. 1 and drop to $625,500, varying by county. Discussions over the debt ceiling included talks of taking that limit down to $417,000 by 2013 for the cost savings it would provide in numbers of loans that the GSEs would guarantee going foward. However, sources on the Republican side of the House said such plans never surfaced in the deal. The debt ceiling deal marks the latest landmark legislation since the Dodd-Frank Act that failed to address the future of housing finance. Even though Republicans in the House made initial steps toward reforming fringe operations of the government-sponsored enterprises, including raising the g-fee, legislation on how to replace the roles of these companies have yet to be taken up by committee. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.