President Obama touted his efforts to boost the "healing" housing market Saturday, while calling on Congress to do the same.
If confirmed, Watt would take over the agency tapped with steering housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but he already is facing staunch Republican opposition, who view Watt as a political nomination rather than someone picked for his expertise.
But Obama contended that Watt's two decades in Congress have given him ample experience and he has a record of protecting homeowners.
"In that time, he helped lead efforts to put in place rules of the road that protect consumers from dishonest mortgage lenders, and give responsible Americans the chance to own their own home," he said. "He’s the right person for the job, and that’s why Congress should do its job, and confirm him without delay."
The president also called on Congress to pass a long-ignored proposal from the White House that would make it easier for homeowners current on their payments to refinance their mortgages and take advantage of current low interest rates.
"If you’re one of the millions of Americans who could take advantage of that, you should ask your representative in Congress why they won’t act on it," he said.
While looking to pressure Congress, Obama also touted the efforts his administration has taken alone to boost the housing market.
"From the day I took office, I’ve made it a priority to help responsible homeowners and prevent the kind of recklessness that helped cause this crisis in the first place," he said.
Efforts from the administration have helped two million homeowners refinance their mortgages, and Obama also hailed the work of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
The CFPB has taken on a number of projects to overhaul housing regulations relevant to consumers, including reworking mortgage forms to streamline and simplify them. These efforts will help "keep hard-working families from getting ripped off," Obama said.
Taken together, Obama said these efforts are part of a housing market that once drove the financial meltdown and resulting recession, but now is making a comeback seven years after the collapse.
"Sales are up. Foreclosures are down. Construction is expanding. And thanks to rising home prices over the past year, 1.7 million more families have been able to come up for air, because they’re no longer underwater on their mortgages," said Obama. "But we’ve got more work to do. We’ve got more responsible homeowners to help – folks who have never missed a mortgage payment, but aren’t allowed to refinance; working families who have done everything right, but still owe more on their homes than they’re worth."