Senate Poised to Reconsider Watt Nomination to Lead FHFA

The U.S. Senate will seek again next week to confirm Democratic Representative Mel Watt to lead the federal agency that oversees government-chartered mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an aide said.

A vote is set for Dec. 10, the Democratic Senate aide said today.

Watt’s nomination failed to advance Oct. 31 when the Senate was unable to win the votes of Republicans, who said the North Carolina Democrat lacked qualifications. Watt is the first sitting member of Congress since 1843 to be denied a major executive-branch post.

The same day, the Senate blocked the nomination of a federal appeals court judge.

Watt, 68, said today at the Capitol that he was “insulted” when Republicans questioned his qualifications to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency “as a rationalization” of their opposition.

“It’s hard to be insulted if you know it’s just politics, but when people start to say, ’I’m doing this because he’s unqualified,’ then it is insulting and then you start to take it personally,” Watt said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, accused Republicans of blocking Watt’s nomination because they don’t like the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac oversight entity he’d been tapped to head.

The Senate voted Nov. 21 to alter its rules to let a simple majority confirm all nominees except Supreme Court justices, ending a 38-year practice by which a single senator could require 60 votes to install presidential picks.

When the Senate returns next week, Watt and others nominated by President Barack Obama to judicial and executive-branch posts could be confirmed by a simple majority.

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