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Civil and Human Rights Groups Call for Mel Watt Confirmation

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WASHINGTON – Just as a cloture petition was filed in the Senate for Congressman Mel Watt’s nomination to be the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), civil and human rights groups are calling for his swift confirmation.
In a letter to the Senate, 54 organizations cite Congressman Watts’ 40 years of experience in housing and finance, including 20 years as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, as key qualifications for his confirmation. The groups also highlight his advocacy  for struggling homeowners. As the letter states, “Rep. Watt was one of the first Members of Congress to speak out against the predatory mortgage lending practices that characterized the boom in subprime lending,  and that eventually contributed to widespread economic devastation. Rep. Watt rightly led the push for legislation that would have required safety, soundness, and fairness to prevail over the blind rush for short-term profits.”

The organizations also cite Senate history of allowing sitting members of Congress a confirmation vote. “A sitting member of Congress has only been filibustered once, in 1843,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.  “Congressman Watt is a tireless champion for homeowners and has the support of bankers, realtors, homebuilders, consumer groups, and civil rights advocates; it would be extraordinary for the Senate to reject his nomination.”

"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is confident that Congressman Watt will receive a favorable vote by the Senate,” said Leslie Proll, director of the Washington, DC office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Mel Watt has served admirably in Congress for over 20 years.  If history is any guide, support from his colleagues in Congress should be assured."

The full text of the letter and signers is below.

October 28, 2013

Confirm Rep. Mel Watt as Director of the FHFA

Dear Senator:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the 53 undersigned organizations, we urge you to support the confirmation of Representative Melvin Watt (D-NC) as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Rep Watt has been a fierce advocate for struggling homeowners, has the depth to grasp the problems that plague Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and has the skills to work with everyone involved to get the housing sector back on track.

Rep. Watt is highly qualified to head the FHFA. He brings 40 years of experience in housing and finance to the position of FHFA Director. As a 20-year member of the House Financial Services Committee, and a member of the Subcommittees on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises and Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, he oversees housing, banking, insurance and other financial services matters. In addition to his public service as a Member of Congress, Mr. Watt, a graduate of Yale Law School, spent more than 20 years practicing law in North Carolina with a particular focus on business and real estate law.  Further, he was a former small business owner who understands both the practical and policy aspects of access to credit issues.

As a sitting Member of Congress, Watt deserves the courtesy of an up-or-down vote. We are confident that if the Senate holds a vote on his confirmation, this highly qualified nominee will be confirmed. In fact a sitting member of Congress has only been filibustered once, in 1843.[i]

Rep. Watt was one of the first Members of Congress to speak out against the predatory mortgage lending practices that characterized the boom in subprime lending, and that eventually contributed to widespread economic devastation. Rep. Watt rightly led the push for legislation that would have required safety, soundness, and fairness to prevail over the blind rush for short-term profits.

As American families continue to reel from the foreclosure crisis, Rep. Watt has demonstrated a commitment to helping communities that have been hardest hit, so that they, too, can share in our economic recovery. A hard lesson from the crisis is that when some of our communities do not receive fair treatment, all of our communities are detrimentally affected. Our global competitiveness is challenged when all of our communities do not have the opportunity to succeed together.

Rep. Watt’s leadership would ensure 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. 

Given the fact that Rep. Watt is highly qualified to direct the FHFA, it is not surprising that prominent individuals and elected officials are supporting his confirmation. Both Republican Senator Richard Burr (R- NC) and Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have been outspoken in their support of Rep. Watt’s nomination. Other supporters include National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Chair Erskine Bowles, Former Bank of America Chairman and CEO High McColl, National Association of Realtors® President Gary Thomas, and National Association of Home Builders Chairman Rick Judson.

Rep. Watt has a long history of standing up for working families, promoting safe and affordable housing, speaking out against predatory lending, and advocating for keeping homeowners in their homes. Strong leadership on all of these issues is vital to ending the continuing housing crisis and to ensuring the recovery of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, regardless of what shape they take in the future. The nation needs Rep. Watt’s talents and leadership at the FHFA. We urge you to vote to confirm him.

  • Action for the Common Good
  • AFL-CIO
  • African American Ministers In Action
  • Alliance for a Just Society
  • Alliance for Justice
  • American Association for Justice
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
  • Americans for Financial Reform
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Campaign for a Fair Settlement
  • The Center for APA Women Center for Global Policy Solutions
  • Center for Responsible Lending
  • Coalition on Human Needs Communications Workers of America
  • Community Action Partnership
  • Consumer Action Consumer Federation of America
  • Consumers Union
  • CourageCampaign.org
  • Demos
  • Home Defenders League
  • International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Japanese American Citizens League
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • NAACP
  • NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
  • National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)
  • National Association of Consumer Advocates National Association of Neighborhoods National Association of Social Workers
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific
  • American Community Development National Coalition for the Homeless
  • National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)
  • National Council of Jewish Women National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
  • National Education Association
  • National Fair Housing Alliance
  • National Health Care for the Homeless Council
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • National People's Action
  • National Urban League
  • New Bottom Line
  • Opportunity Agenda
  • People For the American Way
  • PICO National Network
  • Poverty Race Research Action Council
  • Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
  • Public Citizen
  • United for a Fair Economy (UFE)
  • Woodstock Institute