WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama acted Wednesday to fill two top regulatory posts, tapping a veteran Democratic congressman to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency at a pivotal time for the housing market and naming a top campaign fundraiser and former lobbyist to head the Federal Communications
Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., would oversee the government-controlled mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac just as the industry is beginning a comeback. He would succeed Edward DeMarco, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush. DeMarco’s refusal to allow Fannie and Freddie to reduce principal costs for homeowners at risk of foreclosure made him a target of housing advocates, liberal groups and Democratic lawmakers.
Watt, 67, has spent 20 years in the House, all of it on the Financial Services Committee, which oversees federal housing policy. Introducing Watt at the White House, Obama said the Charlotte-area congressman had led efforts to rein in unscrupulous mortgage lenders, protect consumers from the kind of risk-taking that led to the 2008 financial crisis and has championed increased access to affordable housing.
“Mel understands as well as anybody what caused the housing crisis,” Obama said. “He knows what it’s going to take to help responsible homeowners fully recover.”
Watt’s selection was praised by housing advocates, liberal groups and lawmakers in both political parties.