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Dems Question Otting’s Legitimacy to Head FHFA

Phil Hall
Jan 28, 2019
The two most powerful congressional Democrats overseeing federal housing policy

The two most powerful congressional Democrats overseeing federal housing policy–House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)–are openly questioning whether Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting has the right to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on an interim basis, including his ability to announce potential policy changes.
 
Otting was appointed by President Trump to head the FHFA until a replacement for the agency’s outgoing director, Mel Watt, is confirmed by the Senate. In a letter to Otting, Waters and Brown claimed that his appointment ran afoul of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2018 (FHFA), which stated an interim agency director must be chosen from the ranks of deputy directors within the FHFA.
 
“We are concerned that President Trump has not chosen to select an Acting Director using the process Congress outlined in HERA,” Waters and Brown wrote in a letter to Otting. “However, since you have assumed this role, we are writing to seek information about your planned tenure there.”
 
Waters and Brown requested that Otting provide more information on his recent announcement that the White House will be presenting its plan to end the conservatorship of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). They also questioned his recent decision not to have the FHFA defend the constitutionality of its leadership structure court–last July, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the FHFA’s structure was unconstitutional.
 
Waters and Brown demanded that Otting provide an update by Feb. 1 that will “ensure that any direct action taken by the agency will continue to meet Congress’ direction.”

 
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