FHFA Nominee Mel Watt to Get Full Senate Vote
The full Senate will vote on the confirmation of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) as FHFA director next week, according to several reports on Friday.
Sources told Credit Union Times that the vote would be held this coming Tuesday, Dec. 10.
In October, Republicans successfully blocked Watt’s confirmation from advancing in the Senate.
Reacting to the vote, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said Watt was blocked simply because he’s a politician.
“It is not a secret that this vote was pure obstructionist politics at play,” Johnson said then.
“The last FHFA nominee, North Carolina’s Insurance Commissioner Joe Smith, a technocrat, was also denied a vote. Now, Congressman Watt is being blocked because he is a ‘politician,’ never mind the fact that he has worked on housing policy for 21 years as a member of the House Financial Services Committee,” the South Dakota senator said.
Last month, Senate Democrats voted to overturn a rule that required 60 votes to stop a filibuster that prevented a floor vote on presidential nominees.
Under the new rules, 51 votes would be enough to overcome a filibuster.
Jim Blaine, president/CEO of the $26 billion State Employees' Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C., told Credit Union Times that he supports Watt as FHFA director.
"Mel Watt will be a fair, balanced leader for the Office of Housing Finance. He is a highly respected, seasoned congressman with an exceptional background in banking and finance through his long service on the House Financial Services Committee. His N.C. congressional district encompasses the headquarters of (Bank of America in Charlotte), but he's always been open to hearing the concerns of both credit unions and community banks," Blaine said.
"Our credit union would like to see the future role of Fannie, Freddie and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage greatly diminished in the national and local mortgage market,” Blaine continued.
“Those are not ideas with which Congressman Watt generally agrees, but we know he will attempt to consider all views and seek solutions that are in the long term best interests of consumers. Doesn't hurt that he's also a Yale lawyer with a sense of humor - that really is a unique combination," the SECU leader said.
John McKechnie, partner at the Washington-based advocacy and strategy firm Total Spectrum, noted that for a relatively little-known agency, FHFA has a significant amount of authority to affect the housing finance system.
"It will be interesting to see what kind of approach Congressman Watt will bring to the table," he said.
The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not return a request for comment.
Edward DeMarco has been serving as acting director.