NC Congressman Mel Watt presented a last Exit Statement, as 12th District Representative, at a press conference held in his Charlotte, Morehead St. office, Monday, December 23rd. Watt utilized his years long political slogan, “Give 'Em Mel” in describing his constituents' attitudes and interpretations. Watt served 21 years in the House of Representatives and will resign, January, 2014, to 'move on' to the position, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, nominated by President Barack Obama, as in “Give 'em Mel.” That's who the press got yesterday, the straight-forward, candid Mel Watt.
“He's the right person to protect Americans who work hard and play by the rules and he'll be the right regulator to make sure the kind of crisis we just went through never happens again,” said Obama in a recent statement.
Watt lost the Senate vote, by three, for confirmation, last Halloween, with only two Republicans in support, Richard Burr, NC and Rob Portman, Ohio. A November Senate rule change which requires only a simple majority vote, opened the door for Watt's confirmation. Watts was the first sitting member to be denied confirmation in 170 years.
In 1901, NC Congressman George White's farewell speech after re-election loss reads:
“This, Mr. Chairman, is perhaps the Negroe's temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like, he will rise up some day and come again.”
In 1992, Watt and Eva Clayton were the first African Americans elected to Congress from NC.
“There had not been a Black member of Congress in North Carolina in over 90 years. People felt they had no access.,” said Watt.
Watt said Republicans won't take sides with a President who's a Democrat and that race played some factor in the equation.. He said Republicans had previously spent one million dollars convincing people how horrible he was for voting against Megan's Law regarding sex offenders forced to register. “
“We're not in a post-race society. We can stick our heads in the sand and ignore that factor. Although, it's not only about race.There's so much diversity in the House; age, gender and race. People have difficulty agreeing. We can't even solve issues in our own households...We need to free ourselves from partisan decisions.” said Watt, 68.
Watt's confirmation opponents reasoned his inexperience, him being a politician and his commitment to constituents as negative factors for the director's appointment.
“For now, he'll have to keep dreaming about it...He thinks in terms of the impact of policy on black America, first, and America, a whole second. The main problem is less his qualifications than his view that FHFA should be a permanent agency and one with favoritism toward nonwhites...blacks and Hispanics defaulted on their loans at much higher rates than whites.” wrote Carl Horowitz, director of Organized Labor Accountability Project, National Law and Policy Center.November 8, 2013.
Watts, an Yale Law graduate, practiced for 22 years prior to Congressional victory. Throughout his eight terms, he served on the Judiciary and the Financial Services communities and subcommittees include; chairman, The Oversight and Investigation, Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Housing and Community Opportunity and Capital Market, Insurance and Government sponsored Enterprises
“I've never been a politician. It's more important to do the right thing. The politics is a necessary evil,” said Watt. “This will be a lonelier position. I'll miss my colleagues. I don't filter my calls, either, that's a tangible with no money value.”