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Watt allies lobby for Senate confirmation
Obama nominee in limbo, but advocates urge action
Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013 3:04 pm
by Herbert L. White

The push is on for U.S. Rep. Mel Watt to get a confirmation vote as director of the agency that oversees federal mortgages.

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt leaves Air Force One with President Barack Obama in Asheville earlier this year. Supporters of the Charlotte Democrat are lobbying the U.S. Senate to confirm Watt as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Congressional Black Caucus and National Low Income Housing Coalition are among the advocacy groups lobbying the U.S. Senate for the Charlotte Democrat’s confirmation as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt was nominated by President Barack Obama in May – shortly after then-Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx was nominated as secretary of transportation. Foxx was confirmed in June, while Watt’s nomination has languished. Watt’s nomination was voted out of the Senate Banking Committee on July 18.

Capitol Hill observers have openly speculated whether Watt has enough support to overcome a potential filibuster.

“In order for him to be considered by the full Senate, a cloture vote will be needed to guard against a Senate filibuster,” according to NLIHC’s site. “Now is the time to ask your Senators to vote for cloture to make sure Mr. Watt’s nomination can come up for an up/down vote.”

The NLIHC’s web site encourages its activists to call the Senate at (202) 224-3121 and use social media to urge a Senate vote. Facebook and Twitter posts using the hashtag #confirmwatt has been encouraged.

The government shutdown sparked by Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act and near-default by the federal government focused Congress’ focus on fiscal matters. With those issues resolved until early 2014, Watt’s status has picked up steam, with the Wall Street Journal reporting the Senate could take a vote as early as Thursday.
North Carolina’s senators, Democrat Kay Hagan, a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Development, and Republican Richard Burr, have backed Watt’s nomination from the start.

"Congressman Mel Watt is an outstanding choice to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency,” she said in a May statement. “Throughout his career Mel has been a champion for affordable housing in North Carolina and across the country, and has worked tirelessly to protect families from predatory and deceptive lending practices."

Burr, who served with Watt in the House of Representatives, supported his nomination in May and a confirmation vote, Burr spokesman Robert Reid said.
“His position on Mel Watt has not changed,” Reid said. “The senator can’t necessarily control what other senators do.”

Republicans are split on Watt’s nomination, with some arguing he lacks the practical or legislative experience to hold the job of regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s largest mortgage agencies. Housing and civil rights advocacy groups have endorsed Watt’s nomination, as does the National Association of Realtors and National Association of Home Builders.

Watt has served on the House Financial Services Committee and is a supporter of the National Housing Trust Fund.

In a May statement, Burr said of Watt: “Having served with Mel, I know of his commitment to sustainable federal housing programs and am confident he will work hard to protect taxpayers from future exposure to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

“I look forward to working with Rep. Watt in his new role to find new ways to facilitate more private sector involvement in the housing and mortgage markets.”


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