A bus full of activists from Massachusetts arrived too late for the rally at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation last Wednesday, just a few blocks from the Capitol building, but the Bay State presence was strong nevertheless. The first two speakers were Congressman Michael Capuano of Somerville, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

At issue: pushing Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to do more to keep ownership of homes within communities – and not sold off to Wall Street speculators.

The problem was recently highlighted by columnist Adrian Walker in the Boston Globe, who wrote about Fannie Mae – which FHFA oversees – selling houses in the Four Corners neighborhood of Dorchester.      

“HUD and FHFA... are really in the position to decide federal policy to help people who were crushed during the financial crisis Warren told me in an interview Tuesday. “We don't need new legislation in Congress. I want to make sure the activists are focused on the right place: using the tools that are already available.”

Warren called for four changes. She wants to give non-profits more opportunity to compete to buy the loans – as one tried to do in Four Points; homeowners notification before their delinquent loans are put up for sale; for those sales to “come with real strings attached,” to give owners a chance to stay in their homes; and public accountability of what happens with those mortgages.

“It's very important” that Warren spoke at the rally, said Leroy Johnson of Brooklyn, New York, one of dozens who came with NY Communities for Change. “She's a fighter for this cause, a champion for this cause, a long time. Even before she was a Senator.”

“I think she's truth to power,” agreed Angela Crockett, who traveled from Detroit for the event. “I've followed her for a long time. She's an advocate for the people.”

In her speech on Wednesday, Warren called out FHFA Director Melvin Watt by name, saying that he could act immediately on the problem. Capuano, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee and agrees on the need to keep local ownership, was unwilling to criticize Watt, a former member of Congress.    

“Mel Watt is a friend. I just spoke with him today... I said, 'Mel, you've got to do this,'” Capuano told me after speaking at the rally Wednesday. “I have faith in him.”

In his speech, Capuano criticized investors who “destroy people's lives trying to make that buck” – singling out Massachusetts-native John Grayken, founder of Lone Star Funds.

The activists at the rally – joined by the Massachusetts bus-load, who arrived shortly after the speeches ended – went on to protest outside FHFA and Lone Star Funds buildings on Capitol Hill.

Boehner leaves, but little change expected

Boston-area US Representatives – all Democrats – are expressing something close to sympathy for John Boehner, in response to news that the Ohio Republican will resign as Speaker of the House at the end of October.

They paint him as a victim of his conservative members. And, they say, his likely successor, Kevin McCarthy of California, will have an even harder time.

Representative Seth Moulton put out a press release shortly after the announcement, calling Boehner “a good man with humble roots” who “I enjoyed working with. Unfortunately, his Speakership fell victim to some of the worst forces in the Republican Party.”

“If Kevin McCarthy is elected Speaker, I anticipate the obstructionist Tea Party and far right will continue pushing their extreme agenda,” Stephen Lynch said in a statement to me. “They have proven to be less observant of seniority and the institutional tradition. Congressman McCarthy will face the same problems encountered by Speaker Boehner.”     

“Boehner had some good will,” Capuano told me. Without him, “I think we're heading for another shutdown in December.”

The potential for a government shutdown, when the newly-passed funding extension runs out on December 11, was also raised by Representative Katherine Clark in a statement to me. “This chaos in the Republican Caucus was bad for Speaker Boehner, but it’s disastrous for the families we’re supposed to serve,” she said. “Instead of looking forward and focusing on the needs of families at home, the next Speaker will have to campaign for the support of the most extreme elements of his party even as they are laying down the groundwork for another government shutdown in December.”

Representative Niki Tsongas sounded almost nostalgic for the outgoing Speaker. “I may not have agreed with him on most policy matters, but Speaker Boehner showed respect for all members of Congress, regardless of which side of the aisle they stood on.” Tsongas said in an emailed statement to me. “He also understood that in the end, government has a responsibility to work. But his resignation acknowledges the dysfunction within his party. We saw it this week in how their party has thought to tie the funding of government to their belief that it should defund Planned Parenthood.”

Clark promoted, again

Clark hasn't been a member of Congress for two full years yet, so it's a bit strange to see her promoted to a “Senior” position.

But Senior Whips aren't about longevity in office, says Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democrats' Whip who just gave Clark that promotion. They are a group who meet weekly to focus more on long-range legislative strategy, rather than vote counts on bills coming to the floor soon.   

“I try to incorporate newer members” into that select circle, Hoyer says. Clark, he says, “relates very well to our members. She's a progressive with a great ability to create coalitions.”

Clark's rapid move up the leadership ladder might not surprise observers back in her suburban-Boston district. She became a state representative barely seven years ago, moved up to state senate in 2010, and won a special election for the Congressional seat in 2013, after Ed Markey was elected to the US Senate.

Hoyer made her an Assistant Whip at the beginning of this year, followed by the jump to Senior Whip last week.

It suggests that Clark might be looking for long-term power within Democratic House leadership – rather than eying a future committee chair, as Massachusetts Democrats Richard Neal and Jim McGovern are, in the Ways and Means and Rules committees, respectively.

“Her future is bright,” says Hoyer, who is second only to Nancy Pelosi in the House Democrats leadership. “Look at my career – I got in the leadership pretty early, in the whip organization, and moved up.”

Social media photo of the week

On the bus to talk startups with @SenAngusKing @DevalPatrick @SteveCase #mepolitics #riseofrest #yespwm pic.twitter.com/rypZgU8eiy

AOL founder Steve Case brought his “Rise of the Rest” bus tour  to Maine last week, and was joined by former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Maine Senator Angus King, and Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree – who posted this picture on Twitter.