Senate Dems Pressing Harder to Confirm Mel Watt at FHFA

Mortgage & Real Estate

The White House is backing a new attempt to break a Senate filibuster and get Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., confirmed as the new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulator.

The White House and Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., apparently believe they are in a better position to push for a vote now that the government shutdown has hurt Republicans’ standing in the polls.

The Senate majority leader feels like he is in a stronger place politically than he was before, said Dwight Fettig, a partner at Porterfield, Lowenthal Fettig.

It may be the right time to try again to get the 60 votes to stop the filibuster. We will see in the next few weeks if that timing is right, he added.

Later this week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker will be sworn in as a U.S. senator. That will give the Democrats 55 votes. The only Republican member who has publicly supported Watt is North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.

The Democrats know they have a minimum of 56 votes and the question is where do they get the last four, Fettig said Sunday at a legislative briefing for members of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Another factor that may be in Watt’s favor was a July showdown where Democrats succeeded in getting Republicans to stop filibusters of seven of the president’s nominees, including Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray.

Reid threatened to change the Senate filibuster rules unless the GOP dropped their long-running filibusters of the seven. The Republicans reluctantly agreed, which allowed the Senate to confirm Cordray and the other six nominees by a majority vote.

Watt was not part of that agreement, but the threat will be a consideration for the 44 Republicans if they continue their filibuster of Watt, who has served in Congress for over 20 years and he is a long-standing member of the House Financial Services Committee.

The showdown over the filibuster rules and the recent government shutdown lead me to think they will push for a vote, Fettig says. Whether they are successful remains to be seen. The lobbyist was committee staff director for Senate Banking Committee chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., from 2010 through 2012.

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