President Obama nominated Rep. Mel Watt to head the agency that oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Watt could face a tough road to confirmation. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
WASHINGTON - The housing market has seen major improvements since it crashed in 2008, but President Barack Obama says there is still plenty more to do.
"One of the best things I can do is to nominate Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency," Obama said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Rep. Mel Watt would play a huge role rebuilding the housing market. He would oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the political lightning rods that back about two-thirds of all mortgages.
During the height of the financial meltdown, the government bailed out the two companies and took them over.
"Mel understands as well as anybody what caused the housing crisis," Obama said. "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."
Since taking office, the president has struggled to implement a comprehensive housing policy.
His first pick to lead the FHFA was blocked by Republicans, and the agency's acting director has resisted the calls of liberals to allow principal writedowns on underwater mortgages.
Watt, on the hand, may be more receptive to progressives. During his time in Congress, he has fought against predatory lenders and advocated for giving low-income consumers access to mortgages.
"I think what Mr. Watt will bring is a broader and more inclusive vision for the nation's housing finance system," said Julia Gordon of the Center for American Progress.
Watt could face a tough fight during the Senate confirmation process, however. Already, some Republicans, who want the government out of the mortgage business, are saying he's the wrong pick to lead the agency.
In a statement, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who sits on the committee that will take the lead on Watt's nomination, said, "I could not be more disappointed in this nomination. This gives new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the hen house."
It's a sign of yet another fight for the Obama Administration.