Today, we are asking the Senate to do what it has done time and again, and that is to confirm one of its own colleagues – a fellow sitting Member of Congress – to a top level position in the Administration.
Congressman Mel Watt is eminently qualified to lead the Federal Housing Finance Authority. Given his expertise in housing, banking and insurance and his long government service working on these issues, we are extremely fortunate that he has agreed to serve his country by accepting this position.
As a Member of Congress who has served for over two decades, Congressman Watt should be shown the same courtesy which the Senate has shown to countless other Members of Congress throughout history who have been nominated to Administration posts. In essence, they have all been confirmed. As David Hawkings wrote in his Roll Call column on July 31, “The fate of an incumbent lawmaker’s nomination has been as close to a sure thing as there’s been on the congressional calendar.”
Sitting Members of Congress to be recently confirmed by the Senate have included John Kerry (Secretary of State), Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State), Ray LaHood (Secretary of Transportation), and Ken Salazar (Secretary of Interior). Current Members of Congress nominated to Cabinet positions by previous administrations include John Ashcroft (Attorney General), Spencer Abraham (Secretary of Energy), Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense), and Jack Kemp (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development).
In fact, we could find only one instance in which a sitting Member of Congress was not confirmed to a Cabinet position, and we had to go back to 1843. Caleb Cushing, a Massachusetts Congressman was rejected to be President John Tyler’s nominee for Secretary of Treasury, but he went on to become Ambassador to China under President Tyler and was later confirmed as Attorney General in Franklin Pierce’s Administration.
This is a longstanding tradition in the Senate. It is one of showing respect, courtesy and decency to a fellow Member of Congress when the President calls upon that Member to serve his or her country in the Executive Branch.
We fully expect the Senate to continue this longstanding practice by voting to confirm Mel Watt to this important position.