Obama to Nominate Mel Watt to Head FHFA

(The Root) — On Wednesday, President Obama will announce his intent to nominate Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a White House official told The Root.

FHFA was created on July 30, 2008, when President Obama signed into law the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. If confirmed, Watt will lead the agency's mission to supervise and regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


In addition to being a former Congressional Black Caucus chairman, during his 20 years in Congress Rep. Watt has held senior positions on the House Financial Services and House Judiciary committees. He played a key role in passing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and has co-sponsored various versions of the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.

Watt has pressed for better access to mortgage loans for minority and low-income consumers. When his name surfaced last month as a potential nominee, the Wall Street Journal reported that he was known for "telling former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner two years ago that a position paper outlining options for the mortgage-finance system placed too much emphasis on renting" and not enough on home ownership. Later that year, Watt voted against a bill that would have cut salaries for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives, arguing that it would have been "penalizing the wrong people" and would have risked the loss of qualified talent to other entities.

President Obama, whom some have criticized for lack of racial diversity among his selections for Cabinet posts and other senior-level positions, nominated Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx on Monday to head the Department of Transportation. Watt's nomination comes on the heels of that announcement and may help to blunt such criticism.

The announcement will take place at the White House on Wednesday.