Effort to Bring Fannie and Freddie on Budget Fails

Just because we own it doesn't meant we have to recognize it. That was the message of the Senate on Monday evening when it voted down an amendment (.pdf) which would have required the government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be brought on budget. The government promised to stand behind the institutions and put them into conservatorship in 2008. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), failed by a vote of 47-46. Because it was brought up as a motion to waive a budget point of order, it would have required 60 votes.

It's pretty confusing to understand how Congress can get away with not recognizing in its budget nationalized corporations that have become part of the federal government. At this time any losses these companies incur will be covered by taxpayers. So shouldn't its "outlays, receipts, deficits or surpluses" be a part of the "Budget of the United States Government"? You would think so.

But then you wouldn't know much about politics. This amendment failed for two main reasons. First, it would likely require Congress to raise the debt ceiling. That's something they surely have no desire to do.

Second, Congress really has very little desire to rein in Fannie and Freddie. This has already been seen through the Senate's financial reform amendment process. Two earlier attempts at GSE reform failed soundly. This one apparently scared Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) so much that he used a special motion to require 60 votes, instead of the 50 customary for every other amendment to pass. Indeed, at 47 yea-votes, and seven senators not voting, it might have had a shot at exceeding 50.

The amendment would also have limited the size of Fannie and Freddie's bailout to $200 billion. So far, it's cost taxpayers around $148 billion.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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