President Obama Nominates Melvin Watt to Lead Mortgage Agency


Yesterday, President Obama nominated Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, to become the overseer of the government-backed mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If approved by the Senate, Mr. Watt would replace Edward J. DeMarco, who has been acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency for more than three years.

Mr. Watt is a lawyer who has represented North Carolina in Congress for the last two decades. If he won Senate confirmation, he would become a powerful economic policy maker, as the housing market recovers and the White House contemplates the government’s future role in it. Mr. Watt is well known in Congress, and sits on the powerful House Financial Services Committee. He is also known for promoting lending to low-income and minority borrowers, but is not considered unfriendly to banks: financial firms and insurers are among his biggest donors, in no small part because Charlotte, part of which is in Mr. Watt’s district, is a major banking center. Should Mr. Watt fail to win Senate confirmation, the White House could name him as a recess appointment.

“Mel understands as well as anybody what caused the housing crisis,” Mr. Obama said in a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House. “He knows what it’s going to take to help responsible homeowners fully recover and he’s committed to helping folks just like his mom,” who attended the ceremony, and whom Mr.Obama characterized as “Americans who work really hard, play by the rules, day in and day out, to provide for their families.”