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Jackson Nomination Sails Through Senate Committee

Jackson Nomination Sails Through Senate CommitteeEndorsement follows reversal on RESPA

March 31, 2004 (revised 04.01.04)

By MICHAEL PATRICK CARNEY

The Senate Banking Committee unanimously endorsed the nomination of acting HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson Tuesday, just days after his department withdrew controversial mortgage reforms that amid pressure from industry groups and their allies on Capitol Hill.

Jackson, a longtime friend of President George W. Bush, was expected to breeze through the Senate now that Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), head of the housing subcommittee, has withdrawn a hold that he placed on the nomination because of concerns that the mortgage and title industries did not get a chance to comment on proposed changes to the 1974 truth-in-lending regulations known as the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA.

“I want to take the time to listen to those who would be affected by this rule,” Jackson told reporters last week after announcing his decision to yank the proposal, which was under final review at the Office of Management and Budget. “No it doesn’t have anything to do with the hold on my confirmation.”

The proposed changes to RESPA, a 1974 truth-in-lending act that covers most conventional loans, would have simplified the homebuying process by requiring more disclosure and limiting excessive settlement charges. This drew fire from industry groups and more than 220 lawmakers, who urged HUD to reconsider the new rules because of concerns that the changes would hurt small businesses.

HUD had estimated that the changes would save the average consumer hundreds of dollars each year, but the FTC later concluded that a proposal to disclose payments to mortgage brokers would confuse borrowers and stymie competition.

Although Jackson was in charge of day-to-day operations at the $32 billion federal agency when it drafted these proposed changes, he announced last week in a conference call with reporters that he was withdrawing the proposed rule because lawmakers, as well as industry and consumer groups, did not get to weigh in on the RESPA reform package during a review period that attracted more than 40,000 public comments. Jackson said that he would propose revised rule sometime in the future.

“I am honored by their vote today and by the confidence President Bush showed in me through his nomination,” Jackson said in a statement. “Should the full Senate vote to confirm my appointment, I look forward to working with Congress to carry out HUD’s mission of expanding homeownership and affordable rental housing and strengthening America’s communities.”

The Texan was tapped in January to take the helm at HUD after then-Secretary Mel Martinez left to prepare for a Senate run in Florida. Jackson joined HUD in 2001 after a brief stint as head of American Electric Power-TEXAS in Austin, Texas. He previously ran municipal housing agencies in Dallas, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.


Michael Patrick Carney is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who has worked from Reuters in Jerusalem and North America. He holds a master’s degree from University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and teaches reporting at a Virginia college.email: MichaelPatrickCarney-MortgageDaily@yahoo.com

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