Top executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Wednesday defended their companies’ pay practices which have drawn opposition after it was disclosed the government-controlled firms were paying out nearly $13 million in executive bonuses.

Michael Williams, chief executive of Fannie Mae, and Charles Haldeman, Freddie Mac’s chief executive, both argued the compensation structures at the mortgage finance firms were warranted to retain and attract qualified staff.

A bill to block the pay packages was approved by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday in a 52-4 vote. The full House must still vote on the measure. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

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