Obama to Congress: Confirm housing finance agency head "without delay"

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulates U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., after nominating him to be the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency at the White House May 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Touting signs of vigor in the housing market, President Obama urged Congress to confirm his nominee to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency "without delay" in his weekly address on Saturday.

Mel Watt, the president's choice to helm the agency, has been a North Carolina congressman for over 20 years, "and in that time, he helped lead efforts to put in place rules of the road that protect consumers from dishonest mortgage lenders and give responsible Americans the chance to own their own home," Mr. Obama said.

"He's the right person for the job," the president said, "and that's why Congress should do its job and confirm him without delay."

Republicans have blamed government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for causing the housing crisis in the first place, saying the agencies played a key role in extending home ownership to subprime borrowers who were unable to keep up with payments. Some in the GOP have charged Watt with being asleep at the wheel in Congress as the housing market crumbled due to the subprime mortgage crisis.

"I could not be more disappointed in this nomination. This gives new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the hen house," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in a statement released the day Watt's nomination was announced. "The debate around his nomination will illuminate for all Americans why Fannie and Freddie failed so miserably."

"Before any nominee should be considered for this post, regardless of their qualifications, the administration should explicitly lay out how they will unwind" Fannie and Freddie, Corker added.

In his address, Mr. Obama also called on Congress "to give every responsible homeowner the chance to refinance" their mortgage "and with it the opportunity to save $3,000 a year."

"That's like a $3,000 tax cut," the president said. "And if you're one of the millions of Americans who could take advantage of that, you should ask your representative in Congress why they won't act on it."

  • Jake Miller

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