U.S. senator to bring FHA bill to Senate floor for vote

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:09pm EST

WASHINGTON Dec 13 (Reuters) - A bill aimed at placing the U.S. Federal Housing Administration on firmer financial footing is expected to reach the U.S. Senate floor for a vote before lawmakers leave Washington for the holidays, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

Senator Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson said he will introduce an FHA bill that has already passed the House of Representatives. He is trying to bypass the usual committee process and is pressing for a speedy vote with little or no debate.

"I believe this is a necessary and responsible step to protect the taxpayers given the short amount of time left in the legislative session," Johnson said in the letter to Republican Representative Spencer Bachus.

The agency is facing a projected $16.3 billion deficit in its insurance fund, which has raised concerns it will need a taxpayer bailout. The bill is aimed at reducing the FHA's need for a cash infusion.

The legislation, which cleared the House with an overwhelming margin, would set a minimum rate for the annual premiums paid for mortgage insurance, allow the FHA to exclude poorly performing lenders from the program and tighten the agency's oversight of delinquent loans, among other measures.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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