WASHINGTON — Passing regulatory reform legislation, a grueling effort that has taken more than a year of debate, is just a warm-up for an even tougher fight over the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

With an upcoming election and signs of a still-sluggish housing market, Democrats are in a lose-lose position, observers said. If they deliver a plan, it will draw heavy political fire and potentially disrupt the market. If they don't deliver a plan, they will be accused of ignoring a festering problem that may not be resolved unless there is action from the administration.

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