Spencer Bachus To Chair House Financial Services Committee

As Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, they'll get the opportunity to run the various committees that create legislation and hold hearings. Over the next two years, a few of these will be particularly important. One standout is the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and can be expected to make a lot of trouble for Democrats. But another truly vital committee will be the Financial Services. We learn today that it will be led by current Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-AL).

Phil Mattingly of Bloomberg has the scoop:

Bachus, the Alabama lawmaker who has been the panel's top minority member since 2007, was picked to become chairman by the Republican Steering Committee in a closed-door vote yesterday. Selections by the panel -- made up of House leaders, incoming committee chairmen and members representing different parts of the country -- are traditionally accepted by the full Republican conference, which is scheduled to vote today.

As he says, today's vote is just a formality. Bachus' competitor for the role was Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who has already congratulated Bachus on getting the nod.

This will signify a big shift for the committee. The ideological divide between its current Chairman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Bachus is very wide. According to Govtrack's bill sponsorship analysis, Bachus is a "far-right Republican," while Frank is a "far-left Democrat." The National Journal's 2009 vote ratings agree, ranking Frank as the 12th most liberal (418th most conservative) representative and Bachus as the 305th most liberal (126th most conservative).

Although it's unlikely that Republicans will have the will or ability to gravely alter the financial regulation bill passed last summer, Bachus will still be able to work to shape its rules. A lot of the bill's details are left up to regulators. To the extent he can hold committee hearings or help to pass legislation that addresses certain regulations still being worked out, he probably will.

He will also have the opportunity to play a major role in the upcoming housing finance reform debate, which is likely to be one of the biggest issues in 2011. He has been a staunch advocate for the reform of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so you can expect housing policy reform to be at the top of his "to do" list.

On this issue, his competition for the chairman role, Ed Royce, will also probably be very involved. If there was an argument for providing the position to Royce, it would have been due to his desire to reform housing finance. And Royce's district in Orange County understands the problem well, as many of the big, now-defunct mortgage companies were headquartered in the area.

Finally, look for Bachus to continue to give the Federal Reserve a hard time. He supported Rep. Ron Paul's (R-TX) audit legislation. So if the central bank continues to expand monetary policy or exert its power in other ways, it wouldn't be surprising to see him using his new position to question such actions.