While Congress takes a vacation in August, tens of millions of homeowners will spend day and night worrying about how to keep their home, pay their mortgage and continue to struggle to make ends meet. Before our Senators leave for a month of fundraising and world-traveling, they can take an important step to help these homeowners. The only question is whether our elected officials can put politics aside and actually accomplish something or continue to play the same old politics as usual that has landed their approval ratings below that of a used car salesmen.
The next week is a critical week for homeowners across the country as the United States Senate can (and should) allow an up-or-down vote on the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt as the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency or continue to filibuster and grind the confirmation process to a stop.
President Obama nominated Rep. Watt (D-NC) as the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency in May. As the FHFA director, Watt would have leadership over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government sponsored agencies that have control over half the mortgage market. The direction of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac directly impacts millions of homeowners and their families, our entire housing market and the future of our economy.
As one of the few African American nominees to a major federal agency, Watt has the qualifications, experience and dedication to do what's important and right for our country. In his opening testimony before the Senate Banking Committee a few weeks ago, he laid out his passion for this position.
"Throughout my life, I've come to understand deeply just how important where you live is to who you are. I've observed that having a place to live is 'basic' and that's true, regardless of whether you rent or whether you own."
Rep. Watt's words are backed up by his qualifications. As one of the highest-ranking members of the House Financial Services Committee, Watt has had a long and distinguished career in dealing with a wide number of housing and banking issues. Rep. Watt led the fight against predatory lending-one of the main causes of the financial crisis for years, was a key supporter of the Dodd-Frank Act, has supported principal reduction as a key method for addressing the housing crisis and getting our economy back on track and has championed minority homeownership in his private and public servant career.
Watt has even garnered bi-partisan support ranging from Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who said during a June Senate Banking Committee hearing, "If I could, I'd vote for Mel Watt twice." Civil rights groups ranging from the NAACP to the National Council of La Raza (and including The New Bottom Line] recently voiced their support for Rep. Watt to the Senate Banking Committee.
They write, "Mr. Watt's leadership would assure that the American public continues to have access to wealth building opportunities through homeownership and would ensure access to much needed rental housing at a time when communities of color have suffered a massive loss of wealth built over a generation.
Even the National Association of Realtors has approved of his nomination.
Americans and homeowners are tired of politicians putting partisanship over the needs of their families. Over 5,500 people signed a recent New Bottom Line petition calling on their Senators to vote yes in an immediate up or down vote on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Harry Reid has also indicated that he wants to bring Watt's confirmation vote to the floor immediately. So what's the hold up?
Despite his unquestionable qualifications, near unanimous support from housing advocates and industry insiders and even bipartisan support within the Senate, Republicans are threatening to block his nomination for purely political reasons.
For six years (six years!), the FHFA's Bush appointed Acting Director Ed DeMarco (who I've written about before before) has pushed aside the agency's mission and the needs of homeowners and taxpayers in the name of partisan ideology. It's time for a new permanent director to be confirmed and take FHFA in a better direction for the sake of our country. Rep. Mel Watt is the fair and balance leader we need.
Senators we need you to vote yes on Rep. Mel Watt -- and do it now. Homeowners will not get a vacation from their reality in August and Congress should not get a vacation either until they take this critical vote.