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Obama Nominates NC Rep. Mel Watt as Next FHFA Head

Robert Ottone
May 01, 2013
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)

Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) has been nominated by President Barack Obama to take over the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). The 67-year old Watt has served in the House since 1993, and is considered by some to be a controversial candidate, having been met with harsh criticism from both the left and right. “I could not be more disappointed in this nomination. This gives new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the hen house,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). This wouldn’t be the first time President Obama has attempted to oust current FHFA head Edward DeMarco. Back in 2010, Obama’s nomination of North Carolina Commissioner of Banks Joseph Smith Jr. was blocked by Republicans. The main criticism of DeMarco stems from the fact that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac haven’t been allowed to reduce the principal on mortgages they back. "Congressman Watt is a thoughtful policymaker with a deep background in finance and a long record as a champion for working families," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). "The Senate should confirm Congressman Watt soon so he can get to work stabilizing shaky housing markets and helping struggling homeowners." Rep. Watt made waves in the early 2000s by using a racial epithet to describe Ralph Nader, then later became famous for supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) Act. Rep. Watt has also come under scrutiny for shady business dealings regarding campaign fundraising and racial gerrymandering. Throughout controversy, Watt has remained a wildly popular House figure, winning nearly 64 percent of the 2010 election over oppositional candidates Greg Dority and Lon Cecil. "Mel brings to this position more than twenty years of expertise on the House Financial Services Committee and two decades in the private sector as a small business owner," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "He has a proven track record of fighting to rein in deceptive mortgage lenders, protect consumers from abusive financial practices, and expand affordable housing, as well as to generate bipartisan cooperation to find common ground on key issues." David H. Stevens, President and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), said, "Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been in conservatorship for almost five years, far beyond what anyone envisioned in 2008. It is time to begin transitioning these companies, creating a strong secondary mortgage market that relies first and foremost on private capital with a limited government guarantee that can function for the long term. That needs to be the FHFA Director's number one priority."
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