October 30, 2013
WASHINGTON – This afternoon, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) took to the Senate Floor to call on his colleagues to confirm Congressman Mel Watt as the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Below are Chairman Johnson’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
“Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of Congressman Mel Watt to serve as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
“It has been over 5 years since the FHFA’s inception and it still has never had a confirmed Director. First, Senate Republicans blocked President Obama’s original nominee for the post, Joe Smith, who was a technocrat. Today, they are trying to block Congressman Watt because they say he is a politician, not a technocrat.
“But they forget that Congressman Watt has over 40 years of experience in housing, real estate, and other financial services issues. Before coming to Congress, he practiced business and economic development law, and personally walked hundreds of families through real estate closings.
“In Congress, he has served on the House Financial Services Committee for the past 21 years. In that capacity, he was one of the first Members to recognize the need for action on predatory lending. With great foresight, he introduced the ‘Prohibit Predatory Lending Act’ in 2004 and introduced it every Congress until it became the foundation for the Qualified Mortgage provision of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
“If we had all listened to Congressman Watt before the housing crisis, then thousands of consumers might have avoided being scammed into unsafe mortgages that ultimately led to foreclosure.
“Congressman Watt has also shown a commitment to housing finance reform. In 2007, he partnered with Congressman Frank and introduced a bill to reform Fannie and Freddie. This bill eventually led to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which established the FHFA.
“Industry groups, consumer advocates, and fellow Members of Congress have recognized Congressman Watt’s impressive track record and support him for this position.
“One of his home state Senators and the Republican Senator who probably knows him best has supported his nomination from the beginning. Shortly after Congressman Watt’s nomination was announced, Senator Burr stated, ‘Having served with Mel, I know of his commitment to sustainable federal housing programs and am confident he will work hard to protect taxpayers from future exposure to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I look forward to working with Representative Watt in his new role to find new ways to facilitate more private sector involvement in the housing and mortgage markets.’
“Recently, the National Association of Homebuilders sent a letter in support of Congressman Watt’s nomination, stating ‘During Representative Watt’s tenure on the House Financial Services Committee, he has proven to be a thoughtful leader on housing policy. The FHFA needs a permanent director with his leadership capabilities.’
“The National Association of Realtors also sent a letter of support, praising Congressman Watt by stating, ‘The Director of the FHFA must weigh the costs of action and inaction with the benefits of protecting the taxpayer, and ensuring that the housing sector can stabilize and grow. Mr. Watt has the experience and skill necessary to ensure that both are handled in a manner that will benefit our nation.’
“It is time that we finally confirm a Director for the FHFA to ensure stability and confidence in the housing market. Congressman Watt has the experience, intellect, and temperament to succeed as Director, and there is no legitimate reason Congressman Watt should not be confirmed. At a minimum, as a sitting Member of Congress he deserves the courtesy of an up-or-down vote. I urge my colleagues to vote YES on the motion to invoke cloture so that we can proceed to an up-or-down vote on Congressman Watt’s nomination.
“I yield the floor.”