Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mel Watt a victim of broken Senate

The president nominates a congressman to lead a national housing finance agency. A majority of the Senate supports the nomination. The nomination dies.

Such is life in the United States Senate, once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte saw his nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency shot down today. Senators voted 56 to 42 to advance his nomination, but Senate rules require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

Those rules have rendered presidential nominations meaningless, and must be changed. The Constitution gives the president the responsibility to nominate agency heads. The Senate has the duty to confirm or not confirm the president’s appointments.

These days, though, many nominees never get an up-or-down vote. It takes only 40 senators to sustain a filibuster. Civics courses across America need to be overhauled to do away with the notion that a majority vote wins.

Either that, or rein in the filibuster. Presidents – including future Republican presidents – cannot run an executive branch if a minority of obstructionists eliminate their ability to make appointments to key jobs.

Republicans argue they needed to block Watt’s nomination because he is unqualified. The truth is they are playing politics. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for example, has vowed to block all of Obama’s nominations regardless of qualifications until he gets a hearing he wants on Benghazi, Libya.

Watt, by the way, was a Yale Law graduate and business lawyer before becoming a housing policy leader in the House and a leading member of the House Financial Services Committee. That’s why Republican Sen. Richard Burr, former Bank of America chief Hugh McColl and housing industry leaders have supported his nomination.

And if he’s not qualified? Take a vote and defeat his nomination.

The filibuster rules are freezing the Senate and would do so whichever party is in power. Change them now.
-- Taylor Batten


Yewdon Nomie said...

Oh, so NOW you're worried about this.

Where were you in 2005 when Republicans were making EXACTLY the same argument?

Wiley Coyote said...

I wouldn't be throwing around the word "qualified" these days in Washington. None of them are qualified.

Having said that, I guess you don't remember Robert Bork v. Democrats in the Senate.

Joe Biden originally endorsed him and then changed his mind after the nomination.

...Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell was considered a moderate, often referred to as a "swing vote" in close decisions. Even before his expected retirement on June 27, 1987, Senate Democrats had asked liberal leaders to form "a solid phalanx" to oppose whomever President Ronald Reagan nominated to replace Powell, assuming that it would tilt the court rightward. Democrats warned Reagan there would be a fight over the nomination.

Filibusters have been around and changed since the late 1700's.

Charles said...

When it came time to bring some needed transparency to the financial sector, there was Mel Watt blocking the door. Why? Here's the answer, from Economic Policy Journal in 2009:

His top industry donors are at #1 the commercial bankers industry, at #3 the building trade unions (All that Fed money printing benefited the building trade unions probably more so than anyone else), and at #5 the securities and investment industry. The current #1 corporate donor to Watt is Citigroup Inc.

During 2007-08 his top contributors were:

#1 Bank of America

#2 Wachovia Corp

#3 American Express

#4 American Bankers Assn

Overall in 2007-08, he received $187,359 from the Finance/Real Estate sector, more than double the amount of money he received from any other sector.

(This article also describes Watt's behavior at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee as downright rude.)

No wonder Hugh McColl endorsed Watt - Watt is one of the MegaBanks' l'il puppets, along with certain Charlotte Observer editorial writers.

Cornelia said...

Watt was certainly more qualified for this post than was Foxxy, whether or not one likes his political positions. Maybe the foxy one can hire Watt so show him the way to the men's room.

Skippy said...

Well I have to admit, you may have taken the definition of being a sycophant to a all time new low or all time high depending on how you look at it..

Watt was knee deep in the sub prime meltdown and stood side by side with Barney Frank stopping any reform along the way, he is the last person this country should want in this position.

So instead of blaming Watt and this inept fraud of a President you blame the system.

jay1937 said...

So, who on the editorial board wrote this peace? Sorry for the one that did as they really showed their ability to not know the facts of how things are done in congress, that it has been that way for years, and Mel Watt was not qualified and even the Democrat run Senate knew that!

Archiguy said...

Reading some of these comments is pretty funny and demonstrative of the alternate reality world in which many of today's vocal conservatives live. One wonders if they actually believe the claptrap they write or if they're just victims of brainwashing.

Everyone with a functioning brain who actually lives in THIS reality knows that it's the Republican Party who has been carrying the water for the financial industry which caused the collapse of '06. It was the GOP who pushed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which had kept the country safe from disastrous boom-bust cycles for half a century. It was, and is, the GOP who constantly pushes for de-regulation of the financial industry - with catastrophic results.

It's the GOP who has been blocking all efforts at reform, including implementation of key provisions of Dodd-Frank and stonewalling Obama's appointments to the Consumer Protection Agency.

To try to accuse Democrats of causing the problems that Republicans OWN is typical of the revisionist history that conservatives are constantly trying to create.

Curmudgeon said...

Archieguy - Remind me....who was it signed the repeal of the Glass-Stegall act into law?

Archiguy said...

Curmudgeon - Yes, it was Clinton and he should have known better. But Congress makes - and repeals - legislation. Like all unwise deregulation, that misshapen spawn was the GOP's baby, not his.

And by that time the Republicans had put so much pressure on him with the impeachment, etc., he felt he really had no choice. They would have overridden his veto anyway.

Bubba said...

Is that not the same body and process which unanimously approved Anthony Foxx?

Transportation nominee Foxx breezes through Senate confirmation hearing

Was it broken then too?

Garth Vader said...


Stop confusing the dimbulbs at the CO with facts!

FKACato said...


Should Clinton also have known better than to have had Robert Rubin act as his Treasury Secretary, who pushed de-regulation as heavily as anyone? Should he have known better than to allow the Citigroup/Travellers merger to go through unchallenged, which helped pave the way for GLB, which repealed GS?

Further, the final version of GLB that Clinton signed in 1998 passed the House 362-57, and the Senate 90-8. In other words, it was thoroughly bi-partisan (as was just about the entire subprime scandal).

Also, there's some debate as to when the bubble popped and the crisis started - most say 2008, a few say 2007, but I've yet to see anyone suggest 2006 as you do without offering clarification.

Finally, what "key provisions" of Dodd Frank are being blocked by Republicans? The biggest hold-up has been the responsible agencies' own delays in writing final regulations - which Congressional Republicans are powerless to affect one way or the other. There was a provision that was blocked last year by a Federal Court that dealt with trading limits with respect to commodities, but that hardly got to the heart of the things that caused the crisis.

For a deeper discussion, see Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Created the Worst Financial Crisis of Our Time by Gretchen Morgenson of the NYT and Joshua Rosner, a financial industry researcher.

Of course, they may not be privy to the same "reality" that you enjoy.

FKACato said...

And to the broader point of Mel Watt being a "victim" here:

Watt has held a Congressional seat for 20 years that was specifically created and legally mandated to be one of the least competitive in the country. With that opportunity, he has accomplished practically nothing of note.

The President is entitled to have his nominations addressed by the Senate, but that this inconveniences Watt or deprives the country of his "service" bothers me not one bit.

FKACato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

I agree with the comments of FKACato. Initially I was glad to hear Watt had been nominated but that was only to see him gone from NC. He has done nothing for the citizens of North Carolina and his absence from the House of Representatives surely will not be noticed.

FKACato said...

It gets better...

It turns out Watt himself voted for GLB, and, incredibly, still touts his role in shaping the legislation on his Congressional web page:

But that's ok, because we're assured by our host that Watt went to the right schools and is well-thought of by the right people.