Mel Watt

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Mel Watt
Melvinwatt.jpg
Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 6, 2014
Preceded by Edward DeMarco (Acting)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 6, 2014
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Vacant
Personal details
Born Melvin Luther Watt
(1945-08-26) August 26, 1945 (age 69)
Steele Creek, North Carolina, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eulada Watt
Children Brian
Jason
Alma mater University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Yale University
Religion Presbyterianism

Melvin Luther "Mel" Watt (born August 26, 1945) is an American politician who has been Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency since 2014. Previously he served as the United States Representative for North Carolina's 12th congressional district from 1993 to 2014. He is a member of the Democratic Party. An attorney from Charlotte, North Carolina, Watt also served one term as a state Senator and served as campaign manager for Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt.

On May 1, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Watt as the next head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which among other agencies, administers or has oversight for the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.[1][2] The U.S. Senate confirmed Watt on December 10, 2013.[3]

Early life, education and career[edit]

Watt was born in Steele Creek, located in Mecklenburg County.[4] He is the son of Evelyn Lucille (née Mauney) and Graham Edward Watt.[5] Watt is a graduate of York Road High School in Charlotte. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967[6] with a B.S. degree in Business Administration. In 1970, he received a J.D. from Yale Law School[6] and was a published member of the Yale Law Journal.

Law career[edit]

Watt practiced law from 1970 to 1992, specializing in minority business and economic development law.[citation needed] He has been a partner in several small businesses.[6]

Early political career[edit]

Watt was the campaign manager of Harvey Gantt's campaigns for Mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate election in North Carolina, 1990.[7] Watt served one term in the North Carolina Senate (1985–86).[8]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

In 1992, Watt entered the Democratic primary for the newly created 12th District, a 64 percent black-majority district stretching from Gastonia to Durham. He won the four-way Democratic primary--the real contest in this heavily Democratic district--with 47 percent of the vote.[9] He then easily won the general election by defeating Barbara Gore Washington (R) and Curtis Wade Krumel (L) with 70 percent of the vote, becoming the first Democrat to represent a significant portion of Charlotte since 1953.[10] In 1993, the original version of his district was thrown out in Shaw v. Reno, and was reconfigured to exclude its far western and far eastern portions. The new 12th, however, was no less Democratic than its predecessor, and Watt was reelected 10 more times. He only faced one relatively close race, when Republican Scott Keadle held him to 55 percent in 1998.

Watt was arguably the most liberal member of North Carolina's congressional delegation, and one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent the state. For most of his tenure, he was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.


Committee assignments[edit]

He previously served on the Joint Economic Committee.

Caucus memberships[edit]

Legislative history[edit]

In 2010, Watt sponsored the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act.[13] In 2011, Watt became a co-sponsor of Bill H.R.3261, otherwise known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.[14] In 2013, Watts supported the Amash-Conyers Amendment, and was against the Innovation Act.

Nomination to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency[edit]

On May 1, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Watt to serve as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Almost immediately, the nomination drew criticism from Republicans, some of whom complained that no politician should lead the agency.[15] Other Republican senators have argued that he lacks technical expertise on housing finance.[16] Obama formally nominated Watt to the post on May 7, 2013.[17]

In July 2013, the Senate Banking Committee advanced Watt's nomination on a party-line vote.[16]

On October 28, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid motioned to invoke cloture on Watt's nomination, setting up a key test of whether his nomination could overcome procedural hurdles and move to a final up-or-down vote.[18] The motion failed on October 31, with 56 votes in favor, shy of the 60 needed to pass.[19]

After a series of procedural votes on December 10, 2013, the Senate voted 57-40 to invoke cloture on Watt's nomination, ending the Republican filibuster under the Senate's recently modified rules for cloture on executive branch nominees.[20] Later that same day, the Senate confirmed Watt in a 57-41 vote.[3]

Controversies[edit]

Accusation by Ralph Nader of use of "racial epithet"[edit]

In 2004, Ralph Nader attended a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, at which Nader clashed with members of the caucus over his presidential bid. After the meeting, Nader alleged that Watt twice uttered an "obscene racial epithet" towards him. It was alleged that Watt said: "You're just another arrogant white man — telling us what we can do — it's all about your ego — another fucking arrogant white man." Although Nader wrote a letter to the Caucus and to Watt asking for an apology, none was offered.[21]

Opposition to Federal Reserve auditing[edit]

In 2009, fellow congressman Ron Paul reported to Bloomberg that while Paul's bill HR 1207, which mandates an audit of the Federal Reserve, was in subcommittee, Watt had substantially altered the substance of the bill, a move which had "gutted" the bill's protections.[22] According to Bloomberg News, on October 20, 2009, "The bill, with 308 co-sponsors, has been stripped of provisions that would remove Fed exemptions from audits of transactions with foreign central banks, monetary policy deliberations, transactions made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and communications between the Board, the reserve banks and staff, Paul said today." Paul said there is "nothing left" in the bill after Watt's actions.[22]

Paul responded when he and Alan Grayson of Florida passed a competing amendment hours before the bill cleared the House Financial Services Committee to restore the bill's original language and undo Watt's attempts to weaken its effects. Watt won support from Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and the Congressional Black Caucus, both of which backed his amendment. Eight of the ten Black Caucus members on the committee voted against the Paul-Grayson amendment. Watt and Frank voted to inhibit the bill's approval. With pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to delay consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives, it is unclear when HR 1207 will face a final vote.[23]

The country's largest bank Bank of America is headquartered in Charlotte in Watt's congressional district and has threatened to leave. The Sunlight Foundation reported that 45% of Watt's campaign contributions for 2009 are from corporations in the real estate, insurance and finance industries, the seventh-highest percentage of any member of Congress.[24][25] Watt’s largest contributors included American Express, Wachovia, Bank of America and the American Bankers Association.[26]

Support of SOPA[edit]

Congressman Watt ardently supports the Stop Online Piracy Act, stating that it is "beyond troubling to hear hyperbolic charges that this bill will open the floodgates to government censorship".[27]

Ethics investigation[edit]

Congressman Watt was formally investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics over a series of fundraising events he was involved in. On December 9, 2009 Watt held a fundraiser and soon after withdrew a proposal he had introduced to subject auto dealers to more stringent regulations. The fundraiser brought donors mainly from large finance companies such as Goldman Sachs.[28] Watt was later cleared of charges or wrongdoing.[29]

In what the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called “disgraceful”,[30] Watt introduced legislation to slash funding for the Office of Congressional Ethics.[31]

Racial gerrymandering[edit]

In 1994, the existence of his district was challenged as an instance of racial gerrymandering. The accusation was found to be true, but upheld as "narrowly tailored to further the state's compelling interest in complying with the Voting Rights Act".[32]

Political campaigns[edit]

In 1992, Watt was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's newly created 12th Congressional District and became one of only two African American members elected to Congress from North Carolina in the 20th century, the other being Eva M. Clayton.

Recent election results[edit]

2010[edit]

US House of Representatives 12th District General Election 2010[33]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mel Watt 103,495 63.88%
Republican Greg Dority 55,315 34.14%
Libertarian Lon Cecil 3,197 1.97%
Totals 162,007 100.00%

2012[edit]

US House of Representatives 12th District General Election 2012[34]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mel Watt 246,451 79.66%
Republican Jack Brosch 62,924 20.34%
Libertarian Lon Cecil 0 0%
Totals 309,375 100.00%

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hopkins, Cheyenne; Benson, Clea (May 1, 2013). "Obama Said to Choose Watt to Lead Fannie Mae Regulator". Bloomberg. 
  2. ^ Puzzanghera, Jim (May 1, 2013). "Obama to nominate Democratic Rep. Mel Watt to head housing agency". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ a b http://www.periodicalpress.senate.gov/
  4. ^ "Members of Congress / Melvin Watt". The U. S. Congress Votes Database (The Washington Post). Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "melvin l watt". Freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  6. ^ a b c "Fisher challenges Watt again in 12th Congressional District". Davidson County Dispatch. 30 October 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  7. ^ Smothers, Ronald (7 June 1990). "THE 1990 ELECTIONS; North Carolina Democrat Sets Strategy in Taking On Helms". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Congressman Mel Watt". NCDP.org. North Carolina Democratic Party. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  9. ^ http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=270846
  10. ^ http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=28268
  11. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  12. ^ "Our Members". US House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  13. ^ http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR06162:@@@L
  14. ^ Bill H.R.3261; GovTrack.us;
  15. ^ Prior, Jon; Lee, MJ (2013-05-02). "Mel Watt nomination faces long odds". Politico. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  16. ^ a b Chadbourn, Margaret (October 28, 2013). "White House mounts push to win confirmation for housing nominee". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  17. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate". Whitehouse.gov. 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  18. ^ "Cloture filed on 6 nominations-Estevez, Archuleta, Wheeler, Lew, Watt, and Millett". Democrats.senate.gov. October 28, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  19. ^ Washington Post
  20. ^ http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00251
  21. ^ Nichols, Hans; Savodnik, Peter (14 July 2004). "Nader Angers Congressonal Black Caucus with Demand for Apology". The Hill. 
  22. ^ a b Ivry, Bob (30 October 2009). "Federal Reserve Policy Audit Legislation ‘Gutted,’ Paul Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  23. ^ Dayen, David (19 November 2009). "Paul-Grayson "Audit The Fed" Bill Passes Financial Services Committee". Fire Dog Lake. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  24. ^ Blumenthal, Paul (15 October 2009). "Chamber of Commerce Deploys Former Government Officials to Lobby On Financial Regulation". Sunlight Foundation. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  25. ^ Blumenthal, Paul (9 October 2009). "Top Financial Services Committee Members Rely Heavily On Finance Campaign Contributions". Sunlight Foundation. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  26. ^ "Top 20 Contributors [of] Representative Melvin L. Watt 2009 - 2010". Center for Responsive Politics. 19 November 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  27. ^ McCullagh, Declan (16 November 2011). "SOPA bill won't make U.S. a 'repressive regime,' Democrat says". CNET.com. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  28. ^ Leonnig, Carol D. (16 June 2010). "8 House members investigated over fundraisers held near financial reform vote". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  29. ^ Morrill, Jim (2 September 2011). "Mel Watt cleared by ethics panel". Charlotte Observer.  Reprinted at Queen City Metro website
  30. ^ "Watt's disgraceful attempt to destroy the OCE". Center for Responsible Ethics in Washington. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  31. ^ Siegelbaum, Debbie (21 July 2011). "Dem seeks to slash funding for ethics office set up by Pelosi". The Hill. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  32. ^ "U.S. Panel in North Carolina Calls Racial Gerrymandering Legal". The New York Times. 2 August 1994. 
  33. ^ "NC 12th District General Election Results 2010". NC State Board of Elections. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  34. ^ "NC 12th District General Election Results 2012". NC State Board of Elections. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th congressional district

1993–2014
Vacant
Preceded by
Elijah Cummings
Chairperson of Congressional Black Caucus
2005–2007
Succeeded by
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward DeMarco
Acting
Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency
2014–present
Incumbent