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With the housing industry holding significant sway on Capitol Hill, even some Republicans may be reluctant to deal a death blow to the lenders, preferring instead to tweak but preserve the lending institutions, which are popular among homebuilders.

“A lot of the fight is going to be within the [House GOP] caucus,” Mr. Calabria said.

In the Senate, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, waged a failed effort this year to include the mortgage firms in the Wall Street reform law. He is expected to continue to push for reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the new year, when Democrats will hold a slim majority in the upper chamber.

Consensus on what to do with the lenders should come a bit easier in the Senate, where some predict that Mr. Shelby and Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat who is line to be the next banking committee chairman, will broker at least minor reforms.

“This is a situation where given the importance they had come to play in housing, you can’t tear down the old jail until you build a new one.”

With Congress divided between the major political parties, the status quo is likely to remain for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the next two years. But Mr. Calabria predicts that the 112th Congress, under growing public pressure, will pass some level of reforms before the 2012 elections.

“It’s going to be a tough road, but I do think there is a road for them to get something to the president,” he said. “And I think the president doesn’t have a tremendous amount of wiggle room. I think he’s essentially going to have to sign whatever ends up on his desk.”