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Mel Watt

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Title: Mel Watt  
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Subject: United States House of Representatives elections in North Carolina, 2008, United States House Committee on the Judiciary, 111th United States Congress, Edward DeMarco, Federal Housing Finance Agency
Collection: 1945 Births, African-American Lawyers, African-American Members of the United States House of Representatives, African-American Politicians, American Presbyterians, Democratic Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Living People, Members of the United States House of Representatives from North Carolina, North Carolina Democrats, North Carolina State Senators, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Alumni, Yale Law School Alumni
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Mel Watt

Mel Watt
Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency
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 Alma Adams
Personal details
Born Melvin Luther Watt
(1945-08-26) August 26, 1945
Steele Creek, North Carolina, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eulada Watt
Children Brian
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 1
  • Law career 2
  • Early political career 3
  • U.S. House of Representatives 4
    • Committee assignments 4.1
    • Caucus memberships 4.2
    • Legislative history 4.3
  • Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency 5
    • Nomination and confirmation 5.1
  • Controversies 6
    • Accusation by Ralph Nader of use of "racial epithet" 6.1
    • Opposition to Federal Reserve auditing 6.2
    • Support of SOPA 6.3
    • Ethics investigation 6.4
    • Racial gerrymandering 6.5
  • Political campaigns 7
    • Recent election results 7.1
      • 2010 7.1.1
      • 2012 7.1.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life, education and career

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

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

Early political career

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

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

He previously served on the Joint Economic Committee.

Caucus memberships

Legislative history

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.

Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency

Nomination and confirmation

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]


Accusation by Ralph Nader of use of "racial epithet"

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 (who is of Lebanese descent) wrote a letter to the Caucus and to Watt asking for an apology, none was offered.[21]

Opposition to Federal Reserve auditing

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

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

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

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

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


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
Total votes 162,007 100.00


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
Total votes 309,375 100.00

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Bill H.R.3261;;
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Washington Post
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Reprinted at Queen City Metro website
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^

External links

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

Succeeded by
Alma Adams
Preceded by
Elijah Cummings
Chairperson of Congressional Black Caucus
Succeeded by
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward DeMarco
Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency
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