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latimes.com

Senate confirms Mel Watt to key housing post

By Michael A. Memoli

3:12 PM PST, December 10, 2013

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WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Mel Watt as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday, ending a long battle by Democrats to change leadership of the entity that regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The 57-41 vote was the second successful confirmation of the day under new Senate rules that all but eliminated the filibuster for most presidential nominations. Earlier, the Senate voted 56 to 38 to confirm Patricia Millett to a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Watt, an 11-term North Carolina Democrat, was first nominated by the president in May, marking President Obama's second attempt to name a full-time director to the agency. Republicans immediately expressed opposition, contending that the position is best suited to a technocrat rather than a longtime lawmaker. They preferred to keep Edward J. DeMarco, acting director since 2009, in place.

Democrats have long sought to replace DeMarco, saying that he has not done enough to help struggling homeowners in the Great Recession.

Republicans successfully blocked a confirmation vote on Watt in October, one in a series of moves that pushed Democrats to change Senate rules by lowering the threshold needed to end a filibuster. The Congressional Black Caucus, to which Watt belongs, was among the groups that pressed Democrats to employ the so-called nuclear option.

Watt was in South Africa on Tuesday as part of a congressional delegation attending a memorial service to honor former South African President Nelson Mandela.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

On Twitter: @mikememoli