WASHINGTON, D.C. —While pitcher Roger Clemens was testifying at a circus of a congressional hearing a few weeks ago, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank was just down the hall, working away with a handful of other legislators at a hearing on how to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act.

His colleagues and the press may have been more interested in meeting a famous baseball player, but Frank stayed focused on keeping up the same impressive productivity he showed last year in his first year as chairman.

Frank’s dedication to housing and community development is laudable. But there is a problem. The House cannot enact legislation on its own, and all the bills Frank pushed through last year have gone on to the Senate—to die.

The Senate is closely divided, so it’s hard to pass anything, but since they took over the majority in 2007, the Democrats have given up without even firing a shot.

Instead of working with Frank to push through important legislation, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) decided he wanted to be president of the United States.

He issued a few press releases and held a few hearings to make it look like he was working at the job U.S. taxpayers pay him to do. But he did none of the hard work needed to forge agreement with the ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Richard Shelby.

At a time of a real crisis in American housing markets, when homeowners are being thrown into the street and whole neighborhoods face a new era of decay, Dodd’s panel has moved no significant legislation.

Dodd has done nothing to move forward any of the many pieces of housing legislation passed by the House.

In my view, the most egregious failure was his lack of action on the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007 (H.R. 1427). The bill would overhaul the regulatory oversight of the government-sponsored enterprises of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks, and create a new, independent regulator with broad powers. In addition, the bill creates an off-budget and nontaxpayerfinanced affordable housing fund, which will dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction, maintenance, and preservation of affordable housing.

It’s absurd that this legislation was left hanging, leaving these mortgage finance firms in limbo just when they are most needed to finance affordable rental housing and help solve the subprime mortgage crisis.

It took Dodd the better part of a year to realize no one else shared his fantasy about being president. But even after quitting the race, he shows no indication he can make up for lost time in this election year.

A joke is going around that Republican staff members on Dodd’s committee got together with their counterparts on the Democratic side recently. It had been so long since the committee worked on any legislation, they had to wear name tags. I know. It’s not that funny. But then again, Dodd’s absence at a crucial time for housing and mortgage finance markets was not at all amusing either.

I urge all of our readers, especially those in Connecticut, to let Dodd know exactly what they think of his failure of leadership.

How to Contact Sen. Dodd

  • 448 Russell Building, Washington, D.C., 20510; Phone: (202) 224-2823; Fax: (202) 224-1083
  • 30 Lewis St., Suite 101, Hartford, Conn. 06103; Phone: (860) 258-6940; Fax: (860) 258-6958
  • To send an e-mail, "express an opinion” here.

Nominate Leaders

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE wants to recognize strong leaders in affordable housing.

Help us by nominating outstanding individuals who have made lifelong contributions for induction into the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame.

We are also doing a feature section on Young Leaders of Affordable Housing, the people younger than 40 who are up and coming.

If you have suggestions for either honor, please send them to Donna Kimura at dkimura@hanleywood.com.