Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) declined to question FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco during Tuesday’s House Financial Services hearing, citing “media speculation over the weekend.”
The congressman was referring to reports he is on a short list of possible nominees to replace DeMarco and take the position on a permanent basis.
DeMarco has been acting director of the agency for three and a half years.
Watt’s communications director, Keith Kelly, did not shed any light on the reports, telling Credit Union Times, “Congressman Watt has issued no statements regarding the reports and is not making any comments at this time.”
DeMarco has been under fire from the Treasury, congressional Democrats and state attorneys general for defying requests to implement principal forgiveness programs at the GSEs.
In February, a group of 45 representatives, led by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), penned a letter to President Obama urging him to remove DeMarco from the post.
Monday, nine state attorneys general followed up with their own letter to Obama, also urging DeMarco’s ouster. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley led the group, which also included the attorneys general from California, Nevada, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington.
Should credit unions be concerned about a potential Watt administration at FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
John Radebaugh, president of the North Carolina Credit Union League, called Watt “well qualified” to fill the position. Not only does the long-time member of the House Financial Services Committee have a keen understanding industry issues, he’s also been accessible to the league and has listened thoughtfully to credit union concerns, Radebaugh said.
However, Radebaugh said the topic of mortgage principal forgiveness has not come up during meetings with the congressman before.
“Whether it’s principal forgiveness or other financial services issues, our hope is that Congress and the administration won’t paint with a broad brush, but rather will consider the specific impact of all of these proposals on credit unions and our members,” he said.
During the Tuesday hearing, DeMarco responded to a question from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) regarding the timing of the GSE conservatorship wind down, saying he’d like to see a gradual process that would be completed within five years. “It’s certainly time to begin that gradual stepping back,” he said, noting that most U.S. housing markets are showing signs of recovery.
The wind-down process should be gradual, DeMarco told the committee, so it won’t disrupt the housing market recovery, and will give private investors time to “get comfortable and step back in” to the secondary market.