After months of stonewalling by Republicans and a change in the rules to prevent them from doing so in the future, the Senate voted by a vote of 57-41 to confirm Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
President Obama nominated the North Carolina lawmaker in May, but Republicans used procedural delaying tactics to block a confirmation vote in October. They argued that he was not qualified for the position which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even though he had the support of National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders.
Watt will replace acting director Ed DeMarco, whom Democrats have accused of resisting steps that would help struggling homeowners facing foreclosure.
As the vote took place, Watt and several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus were aboard Air Force One with the president and administration officials en route from the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
"Mel comes from humble roots. He’s represented the people of North Carolina in Congress for 20 years. He’s the right person to protect Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day, and he’ll be the right regulator to make sure the kind of crisis we just went through never happens again," said Obama in a statement.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who as ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has frequently challenged DeMarco's leadership, also praised the confirmation.
"Rep. Watt is precisely the leader we need to address the many challenges still facing the housing market and to ensure FHFA's policies support America's homeowners," Cummings said.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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