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Legislative Updates: February 2011

 

Capitol Call

Outsized expectations seem to be the rule these days, rather than the exception. The Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006 by winning over an electorate that was frustrated with then President George W. Bush, and the two wars that America was engaged in. They were swept out of the House last year by the same electorate that was now frustrated that America was in a historic recession.

In today's 24-hour news cycle, with blogs, Tweeting and Facebook part of our culture, a movement can be created in hours, not years, and the people are becoming ever more impatient with those who do not deliver on their promises. Priorities change swiftly and the people want immediate solutions to the very real problems they face. As a result the Republicans are beginning the 112th Congress with vast expectations that will be very difficult to meet. It seems likely this will become the new "normal" for Congress; that each election will bring a greater number of new members and new priorities than was typical in the past.

In the spirit of change the Republicans in the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) spent January establishing their committee rosters and assigning heads to all the subcommittees, getting ready for their turn in the spotlight. They appear to have their sights set on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the entire housing finance system. Four hearings were scheduled on the topic of the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) in February alone. In addition to the GSEs and the topic of economic recovery --including whether Dodd-Frank hampers the ability of businesses to create new jobs-- the HFSC will be keeping a close eye on the Obama Administration's efforts to kick-start the economy. Many more oversight hearings are likely to come. The Democratic Senate, meanwhile, has been taking its time getting organized, and only recently finalized its committee assignments. The Senate Banking Committee has five new members, including three freshmen. The four Republican newcomers are Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC) is the only new Democratic member of the Committee. SBC Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) is still filling out his staff and has not yet announced any hearings or a preliminary agenda of topics. Most observers expect that he will follow the lead of the House and hold hearings on the implementation of Dodd-Frank and what is being done to improve the economy. His tenor, however, will undoubtedly be less pitched and his hearings friendlier than those of his House counterparts.

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