President Obama nominated North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt, whose district snakes from Charlotte to Winston-Salem, to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”). The chief of the FHFA has become a key economic-policy post in Washington because of its oversight of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee approximately half of all U.S. mortgages. The FHFA’s control over the GSEs means that this agency carries significant influence over the housing segment of the United States economy.
Mr. Watt has been a member of Congress since 1992, and he has a long tenure on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees housing matters. Mr. Watt’s career has balanced advocacy for access to mortgages for minority and low-income consumers with significant advocacy for the financial services and insurance segments.
Another North Carolinian, Joseph A. Smith, Jr., who was then North Carolina’s banking commissioner, withdrew his candidacy two years ago based on opposition from Senate Republicans. Like Mr. Smith, Mr. Watt will likely face a tough confirmation battle, so the ultimate outcome of this nomination is unknown.
On an unrelated note, another North Carolinian – Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, was nominated by the President this week to serve in his cabinet as Transportation Secretary. If confirmed, he will be the youngest cabinet member.