Senate Approves Calabria FHFA Nomination After Deploying ‘Nuclear Option’

The Senate last week approved Mark Calabria as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., deployed a controversial rules provision to speed judicial and executive nominations through the chamber.

MarkCalabriaCalabria’s nomination was approved on a 52-44 vote. The Calabria vote was among the first on the Senate floor after the Senate voted 51-48 to change the rules on the time allotted to confirm executive nominations, limiting filibusters and permitting a simple majority to approve. That vote was also largely along party lines, with only Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, voting against.

The change in rules, known as the “nuclear option,” was pushed through by McConnell as a means to approve a backlog of judicial and Administration department-level appointments. McConnell argued that Senate Democrats were holding up hundreds of Trump Administration nominations, a contention that Democrats vigorously denied.

After the procedural vote, the Senate began approving nominations, including Calabria’s, who has strong support from the Mortgage Bankers Association and other industry trade groups.

Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO Robert D. Broeksmit, CMB, applauded the Senate’s confirmation. “[Calabria’s] knowledge and experience will serve him well as he takes over this dynamic agency at such a critical time,” Broeksmit said. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in conservatorship for more than a decade and it’s well past time that policymakers address the long-term future of these enterprises. As both administrative and legislative reforms move forward, it is important that the regulator and Congress support ongoing liquidity and stability and ensure that the private market is capable of sustaining an expanded role before steps are taken to modify the GSEs’ footprint.”

Broeksmit noted Calabria’s deep policy background and relationships in both the legislative and executive branches. “We believe that Dr. Calabria is well positioned to provide strong leadership at FHFA,” he said. “We look forward to working with him to identify workable solutions that establish a housing finance system that protects taxpayers, allows equal access to lenders of all sizes and business models and ensures a liquid and stable mortgage market for single-family and multifamily loans.”

Broeksmit’s full statement is available here.

Earlier this week, MBA and nearly two dozen industry trade groups asked the Senate to approve Calabria’s nomination. The Apr. 1 letter praised Calabria as a “respected expert in housing finance with detailed knowledge of the intricacies of the housing and mortgage finance markets.”

“As one of the Congressional staffers who helped craft the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Dr. Calabria has demonstrated a keen understanding of the critical role of the FHFA as both regulator and conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” the letter said. “Dr. Calabria understands the need for FHFA to be transparent and methodical in its development and enforcement of policies.”

President Trump nominated Calabria in December, shortly before the end of Mel Watt’s five-year term as FHFA director. The Senate Banking Committee approved his nomination on Feb. 26 by a 13-12 vote along party lines.

Calabria most recently served as chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence. Previously, he worked on staff of the Senate Banking Committee where helped with the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which created FHFA. Earlier, he worked for HUD under the George W. Bush administration and worked previously for the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors.