Politics

Obama housing chief Edward DeMarco under fire from California Democrats

Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco testifies before the House Financial Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Dec. 1, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco testifies before the House Financial Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Dec. 1, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
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NPR has been reporting on the quasi-government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac working at cross purposes, placing billions in investments that did better if the homeowners whose mortgages it held were unable to refinance to lower rates.

Today, NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep questioned Edward DeMarco, the federal regulator who monitors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Inskeep asked whether "everything that happened here was right, was correct, was morally right, entirely aside from legality." DeMarco said, "Absolutely. I’m completely puzzled by the notion that there was something immoral that went on here."

DeMarco has few friends among Californians on Capitol Hill.

More than a dozen California Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama, asking him to replace DeMarco with a permanent recess appointment.

Congressman Dennis Cardoza of Modesto says the mortgage agencies’ acting director “simply doesn’t get it.” Cardoza says that in meetings with DeMarco, lawmakers asked whether he’d ever even met a borrower who’d been foreclosed on. He hadn’t.

"You’d think that someone in his position would at least try to understand the human side of it," Cardoza said, "rather than just the green eyeshade side of it."

House Democrat Zoe Lofgren of San Jose says that, in a fall meeting with DeMarco, lawmakers offered their proposal to help mortgage borrowers whose homes are worth less than they owe. She says DeMarco asked for 10 days to review the idea.

"At the end of January, instead of October, we got an answer," Lofgren said, "and it’s clear from the answer he hadn’t even looked at it. So he took several months to not do his job." She says it's nothing personal, but DeMarco is a "career civil servant who is not apparently capable of taking the bold action that is necessary to rescue the economy."

Cardoza says that if the president can’t muster enough Senate votes to approve a permanent head of the agency, he needs to replace DeMarco and “put somebody with a pulse” in that position.