President Obama on Wednesday nominated Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission, a pair of selections that will face contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate.
If confirmed, Watt would be responsible for oversight of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans have continually bickered with the administration about how to handle the massive companies bailed out by taxpayers.
“Mel understands as well as anybody what caused the housing crisis,” Obama said, adding that if confirmed, Watt would focus on predatory lenders and ensure that low-income Americans had access to affordable homes.
Conservatives bristled at the nomination.
“I could not be more disappointed in this nomination,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “This gives new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the hen house. The debate around his nomination will illuminate for all Americans why Fannie and Freddie failed so miserably.”
Wheeler, Obama’s pick to lead the FCC, also ignited GOP anger. The 67-year-old was a major fundraiser for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, another example, critics said, of the growing influence of money in the Obama administration.
“He’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products, “ Obama said of his nominee. “Tom knows this stuff inside and out.”