Mel Watt confirmed as the next FHFA head
With a 57 to 41 vote in the Senate, Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) was confirmed as the next head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the regulator of both Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federal home loan banks. The news of Watt’s confirmation came tonight as he was on a plane back from South Africa as part of the congressional delegation that attended Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.
Senators invoked cloture on Watt’s nomination, marking the first time the chamber had agreed to proceed to final debate on an executive branch nominee under the historic change in Senate rules recently enacted, allowing for a simple majority vote to rule.
Watt won the Democratic vote by a landslide, even pulling over Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to their side to vote for his confirmation.
Watts divided the Senate, remains controversial
The confirmation is surprising, given how many believed his confirmation to be impossible, and some say the new rules paved the way for his confirmation.
Aside from these facts, Watt has been and continues to be at the center of various controversies, for example, Watt supports the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), mocking critics by saying that it is “beyond troubling to hear hyperbolic charges that this bill will open the floodgates to government censorship.”
Watt was found guilty of racial gerrymandering in his district in 1994 and his response to a 2009 investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics was to slash funding for the Office, even though he was cleared of wrongdoing. Nearly a decade ago, he went head to head with Ralph Nader who demanded and never received an apology for Watt’s racist rant, allegedly stating, “You’re just another arrogant white man — telling us what we can do — it’s all about your ego — another [expletive] arrogant white man.”
In 2009, Ron Paul’s bill HR 1207 called for mandatory audits of the Federal Reserve, and in subcommittee, Watt altered the bill so substantially that all audits were essentially removed, a move which Paul said left nothing ofthe original bill. When Paul called for the bill to be restored, Chairman Barney Frank sided with Watt. The stripping of the bill was suspect as Bank of America is headquartered in Watt’s district and threatened to leave.