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Fannie, Freddie Get Their Day in the House

The House will spend this week debating emergency housing legislation and two more energy bills aimed at lowering gas prices in the short term.

Lawmakers are expected to take up major housing legislation that includes a Bush administration proposal to bail out ailing mortgage companies. The package would authorize the government to extend 18 months of credit to beleaguered mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It would also allow the government to purchase an equity interest in the two entities.

House GOP leaders have complained that the White House is pushing for too much too soon in terms of help for the financial institutions and have instead called for hearings on the matter. Despite Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson meeting with the House Republican Conference to try to bridge differences, sources in the meeting said he swayed few minds.

On another front, energy bills aimed at lowering gas prices in the short term are likely to surface on the suspension calendar, which would not allow GOP amendments. One bill would draw down oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and another would crack down on market speculation. A Democratic leadership bill to force companies to drill for oil on already-leased lands failed last week.

Other bills on tap for the week include highway bridge reconstruction legislation and the Senate-passed global AIDS bill.

During his Thursday colloquy with House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that Democratic leaders “certainly” intend to bring the defense appropriations bill to the floor but that it hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Hoyer said he talked with Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) about his discussions with ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) on moving forward with fiscal 2009 spending bills, and Hoyer said “my belief is that they hadn’t made as much progress as he had hoped to make.”

Earlier Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she didn’t know whether the defense spending bill could be ready for the floor before the August recess. But she said she isn’t concerned about its passage.

“I know that the defense appropriations bill will be passed. That is our responsibility, and we will do that,” the Speaker said.

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