Boehner Faults Financial Crisis Hearings

Posted October 6, 2008 at 4:24pm

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) lashed out on Monday at Democrats for scheduling hearings on the financial crisis that he said will amount to little more than “political theater” because they don’t weigh the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But Democrats said they’ve just started their hearings and Fannie and Freddie might be part of them.

Boehner said the economic meltdown can’t be understood without a full airing of the role of the two firms.

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) refusal to examine their role “says a lot about where the Democrats’ priorities lie,” Boehner said. The decision is “irresponsible and cheats the American people of key facts that could help all of us learn how we got here.”

Democrats, Boehner added, have blocked Republicans from overhauling the two government-sponsored enterprises.

During the first hearing Monday on the Wall Street meltdown, Waxman signaled that GSEs might get closer examination in the coming weeks, when the committee is scheduled to hold four more hearings.

“Our staff is already looking into some of the documents relating to” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Waxman said. “We may well add additional hearings. … We’re not restricted to those five hearings, and I appreciate the concern that’s been raised.”

Other Democrats brushed off Boehner’s attack.

“House Republicans failed to enact GSE reform while they were in charge for 12 years, while House Democrats moved a bill within the first few months as a majority and persisted until it was enacted into law earlier this year,” said Stacey Bernards, spokeswoman for Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Steven Adamske, spokesman for the Financial Services Committee, pointed out that the committee held a hearing on Sept. 25.

“While Mr. Boehner might believe that Congress’ oversight role is political theater, we take our oversight role seriously,” Adamske said. “This may be able to explain why the Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress for much of the past 12 years, could not advance GSE reform to the president — despite all their rhetoric. It was the Democratic Congress who got it done.”

Democratic leaders have lined up a number of hearings this fall aimed at better regulating financial and home-lending industries.

Beyond today’s Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the bankruptcy filing by Lehman Brothers, the committee will meet again Tuesday to examine the regulatory mistakes and financial excesses that led to the government bailout of AIG.

Later this month, the committee will hold hearings on the role of hedge funds, credit-rating agencies and federal regulators in the Wall Street financial crisis. Invited witnesses include former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Chris Cox and former Treasury Secretary John Snow.

Other committees meeting this month include the Agriculture Committee, which will discuss the use of unregulated swaps that contributed to the downfall to AIG and Bear Stearns, and the Education and Labor Committee, which will look at the impact of the flailing financial sector on retirement security.