Statement by National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Sheila Crowley on Senate Republicans Blocking Representative Watt's Confirmation as FHFA Director
Today, a minority of U.S. Senators prevented the full Senate from voting on the nomination of Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) to be the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Once again, the threat of a filibuster by Republicans has prevented an up or down vote in the Senate on a matter of great national importance. Because Mr. Watt’s nomination was not allowed to go forward, an acting director will remain in charge of this vital federal agency.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. In 2008, the agency became the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when the two government sponsored enterprises faced huge financial losses. As such, FHFA has enormous responsibility for and power over the U.S. housing market; it is not an agency that should be subjected to partisan maneuvering.
Mr. Watt is an excellent nominee for the position of FHFA director. He has clearly demonstrated subject matter expertise and a stellar legislative history of protecting consumers and advancing housing affordability. He enjoys widespread support from the housing and lending industries, affordable housing organizations, and civil rights and consumer advocates.
The arguments opposing Mr. Watt’s confirmation were shallow and imprecise, suggesting that the party-line vote (only two Republicans voted in his favor) was politically motivated.
Only once before, in 1843, has the Senate refused to approve the nomination of a sitting member of Congress for a cabinet level position. The rejection of Mr. Watt’s nomination by the U.S. Senate in 2013 is extraordinary.
It is crucial that the FHFA be run by a permanent director who is nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by a majority in the Senate. The housing stability of millions of American families depends on it.