Watt tapped to lead Federal Housing Finance Agency

McClatchy Washington BureauMay 1, 2013 

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt will be named Wednesday afternoon to lead the federal agency that regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a White House official said.

Watt, a Democrat, will be tapped as the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt is a longtime member of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees housing issues. He represents North Carolina's 12th congressional district, which includes Charlotte.

The White House cited his work on the finance committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. The official said Watt played “a critical role” in passing the Dodd-Frank Act, that strengthened consumer protections, and spearheaded legislation to end predatory lending practices in the real estate market.

“Watt has developed 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 working across the aisle to find common ground on critical issues,” said the official, who asked not to be named because the nomination was not yet official.

The reports of Watt being considered for the top post come as the Obama administration has faced criticism for a lack of diversity in the president’s Cabinet. On Monday, President Barack Obama countered those criticisms when he nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to serve as transportation secretary.

This is not the first time Watt’s name has been floated for a top administrative position. The Congressional Black Caucus lobbied Obama to name Watt, who has served 20 years in Congress, as commerce secretary.

Watt is already receiving support from colleagues.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Watt will be an excellent director. "Congressman Watt has deep expertise in housing policy and a record of distinguished service on the House Financial Services Committee," Cummings said.

Watt, who attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale Law School, served in the N.C. State Senate before being elected to Congress in 1992. During his 20 years in the House, Watt has held senior positions on the Financial Services and Judiciary committees. He is also a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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