White House concerned over Senate vote on mortgage regulator

Reuters

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - The Obama administrationexpressed concern on Wednesday that Republicans may block a votein the U.S. Senate on the nomination of the president's choiceto regulate mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Senate scheduled a procedural vote on the nomination ofRepresentative Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing FinanceAgency, for early afternoon on Thursday.

Watt is expected to win the support of all Democrats and thetwo independents who vote with them, a total of 55, assuming NewJersey Senator-elect Cory Booker is sworn in by then, which isexpected to happen.

However, a senior Democratic aide said it is unknown howmuch Republican support Watt would get. The North CarolinaDemocrat needs to attract at least 60 votes in the 100-seatchamber to win the procedural vote and move to a finalup-or-down vote.

"There is talk that in the Senate tomorrow that people willrefuse to even allow him an up-or-down vote," White HouseNational Economic Council Director Gene Sperling told reporters.

Sperling said the administration believes there areRepublicans who will support Watt's nomination, but does notknow how many.

"We do not have an exact vote count but we are working hardto make sure that there is the adequate support for Mel Watt tobe confirmed," Sperling told reporters on a conference call.

Sperling and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan urged theSenate to allow such a vote on Watt, who has a long record onthe House Financial Services Committee.

"If one thing is clear it's that Mel Watt deserves anup-or-down vote," Sperling said.

Obama nominated Watt to replace Edward DeMarco as head ofthe FHFA on May 1, but the nomination has stalled.

The White House met earlier this week with housing andfinancial services groups to try to get them to pressure SenateRepublicans into allowing the chamber to move directly to afinal vote.

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