DATE: OCTOBER 29, 2013
FROM: BRAD WOODHOUSE, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS UNITED FOR CHANGE
SUBJECT: Why U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte Should Swiftly Confirm Mel Watt as FHFA Director, Put Consumers Before Big Banks
As you may know, this spring President Obama nominated long-time North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Administration. This nomination could receive its floor vote over the next few days. It could come as early as Thursday, October 31.
As you may also know, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is charged with oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both government-sponsored entities (GSEs). FHFA also has responsibility for a vast array of policy decisions that affect the housing market recovery including setting loan limits and fees for GSE-backed loans. There is also consensus among policymakers that both GSEs must be revamped to safely serve the mortgage market.
Despite these serious concerns, FHFA has suffered from the absence of a confirmed director for several years, one of the most important housing policy-setting positions in government.
At a time when a nearly a quarter of American homeowners are “underwater” on their mortgage more than 5 years after the financial crisis erupted in 2008, it is critical for taxpayers, homeowners, communities, and the economy that someone is in charge of the FHFA that is fully committed to helping homeowners that are responsible but still struggling to get their heads back above water. That person is Mel Watt, who has a strong record of calling out risky misbehavior on Wall Street, standing up to unscrupulous mortgage lenders and standing up for Americans in low-income neighborhoods who do not have access to affordable housing. It is because of Watt’s impeccable pro-consumer record that the big banks’ lobbyists are asking Senators like Kelly Ayotte who always lend them a sympathetic ear to block the nomination.
The question is: will Sen. Ayotte do what’s best for consumers and homebuyers -- or continue to do the bidding of the big banks don’t want to be held accountable for bad behavior? There has been NO credible argument made to deny Mel Watt an up or down vote on the Senate floor to this important post. If Republicans stop Representative Watt’s nomination through the use of a filibuster they must be forced to explain why. Sen. Ayotte must answer: why is Mel Watt the first sitting member of Congress since BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR IN 1843 to have his nomination blocked through use of a filibuster?
Why Watt deserves be confirmed immediately:
Rep Watt brings 40 years of experience in housing and finance to the position of FHFA Director. Rarely have federal nominees brought such a breadth and depth of experience to a position.
Rep. Watt has consistently sought reasoned balanced and bipartisan efforts in policymaking.
He has a history of working with colleagues across the aisle to sponsor legislation. Those efforts include co-sponsoring bills with other current House Financial Services Committee colleagues: Reps. Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Missouri’s Blaine Luetkemeyer.
North Carolina’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Burr was one of the first to endorse his nomination. Massachusetts’ Senator Elizabeth Warren has also spoken to her support. In addition, consumer organizations, civil rights groups and industry trade associations have all come out in support of the nomination.
What supporters of the Watt nomination have said:
Senator Richard Burr:
“Having served with Mel, I know of his commitment to sustainable federal housing programs and am confident he will work hard to protect taxpayers from future exposure to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I look forward to working with Rep. Watt in his new role to find new ways to facilitate more private sector involvement in the housing and mortgage markets.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren:
The President has made an excellent choice in nominating Mel Watt to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Congressman Watt is a thoughtful policymaker with a deep background in finance…The Senate should confirm Congressman Watt soon so he can get to work stabilizing shaky housing markets…”
National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Chair Erskine Bowles:
"a bright mind, great work habits and an understanding of how Washington works..."
Former Bank of America chairman and CEO Hugh McColl:
“What he brings to everything – doesn’t matter the subject – is an open mind. He has clarity of thought.”
National Association of Realtors® President Gary Thomas:
“The National Association of Realtors® commends the Administration on its nomination of Representative Melvin Watt for the position of Federal Housing Finance Agency Director…. We look forward to continuing our work with FHFA and Representative Watt upon his confirmation.”
National Association of Home Builders Chairman Rick Judson:
"We applaud the nomination of Representative Watt to this important position. After four years in conservatorship, the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stands at a crossroad. Rep. Watt brings years of experience to this position at a pivotal moment as our nation's housing market recovers. NAHB looks forward to working closely with Rep. Watt to help address the many complex challenges facing the U.S. housing finance system upon his confirmation by the U.S. Senate."
National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguia
“We commend President Obama for this strong choice for Director of the FHFA…Throughout his distinguished tenure in Congress, Rep. Watt has established himself as a strong advocate for vulnerable consumers and families experiencing needless foreclosures. This is a critical position that will help chart the course of the nation’s housing market at a time when credit is tight and foreclosures persist, especially for Latino families. We urge Congress to swiftly confirm Rep. Watt, who has the experience and acumen to help accelerate the housing recovery.”