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Richard D.
Democrat IL

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  • Nomination of Melvin L. Watt to Be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency—Continued

    by Senator Richard J. Durbin

    Posted on 2013-12-10

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    Read More about Nomination of Melvin L. Watt to Be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency--Continued

    DURBIN. Mr. President, the Senate has considered several well- qualified nominees this week. One of those is Congressman Mel Watt, the President's nominee to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Congressman Watt has the institutional knowledge, legislative experience, and vision to transform our housing market and ensure that the mortgage crisis doesn't happen again.

    Congressman Watt has vast experience working with the housing market. He practiced law for 22 years prior to his congressional career, executing countless real estate transactions. Since being elected to serve in North Carolina's 12th District in 1993, Congressman Watt has fought tirelessly to restore integrity to our financial system.

    He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, where he sponsored legislation that would eventually become part of the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to ensure that mortgage applicants can, in fact, meet their mortgage obligations. What is more, he recognized that lenders were engaging in predatory practices when underwriting mortgage loans well before the foreclosure crisis.

    Since 2004, he has advocated for legislation to combat predatory mortgage practices. He has also been working for 10 years toward reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I share his goal, and I want the right person at the helm when Congress begins that process.

    Before responsible reform can happen, we need to come to some consensus about what we want the secondary mortgage market to look like. Families should have access to traditional 30-year mortgages. And we don't want to cut off access to capital for multifamily housing, which provides affordable housing for millions of families. Congressman Watt's experience delving into these issues will be invaluable in his role as the new Director of FHFA.

    The mortgage crisis that took our Nation's economy to the brink in 2008 is still hurting American homeowners and our economy. About 15 percent of all borrowers--more than 7 million Americans--are still under water on their mortgages and high rates of foreclosure continue to plague communities across the country. The housing market still has a long way to go.

    There is more that FHFA can do to help the housing market recover-- from working with State and local governments to maintain vacant foreclosed properties held by Fannie and Freddie, to targeted principal reduction to help families stay in their homes. I look forward to working with Congressman Mel Watt to address the challenges still facing the housing market.

    Time and again, some of my colleagues threaten to block confirmation of nominees to further sometimes unrelated agendas. Sometimes it is simply because President Obama nominated these individuals. I hope that my colleagues will carefully consider the struggling homeowners in their respective States as they do this.

    FHFA has gone without a Director for more than 4 years. This important agency needs a Director that will stand up for homeowners and work with Congress to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    FHFA deserves to be fully staffed so it can serve the best interests of taxpayers and homeowners. I urge my colleagues to support Congressman Watt's confirmation and look forward to working with him as he becomes the new Director of the FHFA.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Donnelly). The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the nomination of Melvin L. Watt, of North Carolina, to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency for a term of 5 years? Mr. SCHATZ. I ask for the yeas and nays.

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