Two local groups have voiced their displeasure with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's (R-IL) votes on the nominations of Mel Watt for the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Gina McCarthy for the job of administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Woodstock Institute's Katie Buitago wrote the following regarding Kirk's vote to block Watt from the job of director of the FHFA:
Senator Mark Kirk voted today against the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt of North Carolina as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Despite Senator Kirk’s opposition, the nomination passed out of the Senate Banking Committee on a 12-10 party line vote and will proceed to the full Senate for a vote.
“We are deeply disappointed in Senator Kirk’s vote to blockMel Watt today,” said Dory Rand, president of Woodstock Institute. “Illinois homeowners need a fresh leader at the FHFA who has the vision to limit the pain caused by foreclosures and jump-start housing market investment. Consumer advocates and industry representatives agree thatMel Watt is clearly qualified to do that job. We urge Senator Kirk to reconsider his position when Watt’s nomination comes before the full Senate.”
Rep. Watt has deep housing market expertise that would make him an excellent FHFA director. Watt has actively served on the House Financial Services Committee for two decades, using his position to advocate for affordable housing, fair lending, and consumer protections. Before his tenure in Congress, Watt worked on real estate and housing issues as a Yale-educated economic development lawyer in North Carolina. His qualifications have attracted a diverse group of supporters, including housing industry representatives such as the National Association of Realtors and National Association of Home Builders as well as consumer advocates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Americans for Financial Reform.
A replacement for Ed DeMarco, the current acting director of the FHFA, is long overdue. DeMarco has obstructed necessary policy changes that would have lessened the negative impact of the foreclosure crisis on families and communities alike. Specifically, he has barred Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from allowing lenders to reduce principal on underwater loans, even in situations where it would prevent foreclosure. Negative equity is associated with higher likelihood of mortgage defaults. In a market where one in four mortgage holders is underwater, allowing principal reductions on Fannie- and Freddie-backed loans would keep more families in their homes and stabilize communities and the market alike.
Woodstock Institute for years has called for principal reductions to be allowed on Fannie and Freddie loans, and for a replacement for DeMarco when he continued to refuse to change FHFA policy even when principal reductions were demonstrated to save money for his agency. We believe Rep. Watt would enact more forward-looking policies on principal reduction as FHFA director.
“Illinois homeowners will not forget that Sen. Kirk voted against an FHFA leader who could fix the broken policies that led to unnecessary foreclosures and lost wealth,” said Rand.
Environment Illinois Field Associate Kate Abendroth released the following statement after the 69-31 vote to end discussion on McCarthy's nomination for EPA administrator:
Gina McCarthy’s confirmation is long-awaited good news for the planet and Illinoisans’ health.
Ms. McCarthy’s stellar work under both Republican and Democratic governors, coupled with her track record at EPA proves that when it comes to protecting our families’ health and environment, it isn't about which party or who you work for. It's about whether you can get the job done. Gina McCarthy can get the job done.
Working with a variety of stakeholders over the past four years, Ms. McCarthy was integral to several historic initiatives, including new federal clean car standards that represent the biggest step the U.S. has ever taken to get off oil and tackle global warming; the first-ever federal limits on mercury pollution from power plants; and the first-ever proposed federal limits on carbon pollution from new power plants.
I am confident that Ms. McCarthy will continue to put her professionalism and commitment to work developing solutions to the formidable environmental challenges we still face.
There is much that remains to be done. In the next three years, we’re counting on EPA to finalize carbon limits for new and existing power plants — the largest sources of global warming pollution — as outlined in President Obama’s recently announced Climate Action Plan. In addition EPA must secure protections for all our waterways, ensuring safe drinking water for 117 million Americans, limiting pollution from development and factory farms. EPA must deal with the tremendous health and environmental threats from fracking and move ahead with other much-needed environmental initiatives.
I thank Senator Durbin for voting to confirm Gina McCarthy’s appointment and am disappointed Senator Kirk voted against the confirmation.
Environment Illinois looks forward to working with EPA and its new chief to address our most pressing environmental challenges.
Image: AP/Daily Herald