2009--a watershed year.

Author:O'Connor, Steve
Position:Inside the Beltway - Senate Banking Committee - Retirements of Wayne Allard and appointments of senator Tim Johnson

This will be a year like none before for the real estate finance industry and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

January 2009 brings a new president, a new administration and a new Congress to Washington. Fresh ideas will be discussed and old ideas will be debated with different outcomes. Many old relationships and alliances have disappeared, and new ones must be formed. At the same time, we are all anticipating continued challenges for the economy as a whole and for the real estate finance industry in particular, which is experiencing once-in-a-generation upheaval. In addition, evolving public perceptions about lenders, mortgages and homeownership will guide policymakers and impact our industry.

As daunting as this all sounds, it is also exciting to work on behalf of an industry as it reinvents itself and its role in the American economy. And while MBA is operating like all of you, with fewer resources and fewer employees, we are nevertheless well positioned within this significantly changed environment to make your voices heard on Capitol Hill, in the White House and in the statehouses and governors' mansions throughout the country.

What has changed

President-Elect Barack Obama's election has created a perceived public mandate that will give his administration's early efforts tremendous momentum. At the same time, many factions within the Democratic party will seek to define that mandate for the new administration, from the party's far left to the far right. Reconciling these factions while maintaining momentum will be a key challenge for the new president and his team.

Congress, although significantly more Democratic, is unlikely to relinquish its role and become a 535-person Greek chorus to Obama's unfolding legacy.

In the Senate, the Democrats now have a 58-seat majority, up from a slim 51-seat majority in 2008. This margin gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) a true working majority, and will require him to only bring a few Republican senators on board on any major issue to avoid a filibuster. It is, however, still short of the magic number of 60 Democratic senators needed to completely cut off debate on a piece of legislation.

The Senate Banking Committee, arguably MBA's most important committee in that body, will be quite different in the new Congress with the defeat of Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina), and the retirements of Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) and Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). The leadership of the Senate Banking Committee will continue, at least for now, in the hands of its current chairman, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut). If Dodd leaves the committee, we would expect Senator Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) to become the new chairman.

The House of...

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