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The Morning Plum: A good move on the housing crisis

The failure to adequately deal with the ongoing housing and mortgage crisis is one of the more disappointing aspects of Obama’s record, so it’s good to see that he’s nominating a strong pick to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From the Huffington Post:

President Barack Obama will nominate Mel Watt, a longtime Democratic congressman from North Carolina, to oversee government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a move that may give the White House greater control over housing policy.
Obama will announce his nomination of Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said. The nomination, subject to Senate approval, would thrust the Yale-educated lawyer into the center of U.S. economic policy as the government weighs how best to maintain the housing recovery while reducing the government’s role in propping up home prices and providing loans.

Watt would replace the Bush-appointed Ed DeMarco, who has been widely pilloried by liberals for refusing Obama administration requests to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer relief to distressed home borrowers. Dems are pointing out this morning that Watt has a record of supporting legislation to fight predatory mortgage lending practices.

Watt is all but certain to face opposition from Republicans. HuffPo again:

Many Democrats have argued that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be used to advance policies that would aid the broader housing market, and by extension the economy. Republicans are opposed to using the mortgage financiers as tools for economic or social policy.
Industry executives and Washington lobbyists view Watt as a potential FHFA chief who would go along with Obama administration requests. For that reason alone, Watt may face an uphill climb to confirmation due to potential Republican opposition. Since its creation in 2008 the FHFA has never had a Senate-confirmed director.

It will be interesting to see if Republicans filibuster Watt. As one Dem remarked to me this morning, the optics will not be all that great if they block a well-qualified black Member of Congress who is devoted to bringing relief to middle class homeowners amid the continuing housing and mortgage crisis.

UPDATE: Elizabeth Warren’s statement on Watt:

The President has made an excellent choice in nominating Mel Watt to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  Congressman Watt is a thoughtful policymaker with a deep background in finance and a long record as a champion for working families. The Senate should confirm Congressman Watt soon so he can get to work stabilizing shaky housing markets and helping struggling homeowners.

* Dems hold small edge in Congressional ballot matchup: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that voters support the Dem candidate in their district over the Republican by 41-37. Sixty seven percent disapprove of the Congressional GOP, versus 60 percent who disapprove of Dems. Sixty two percent say Republicans don’t care about their needs and problems; 54 percent say that about Dems. Republicans hold a small edge on the deficit and gun policy.

The question is whether that small ballot edge will hold; the 2014 elections are 18 months away.

* What Obama could do about Guantanamo now: Yesterday Obama pledged yet again to try to close Guantanamo in the face of Congressional opposition. But as Charlie Savage reports, there are several steps he could be taking right now to begin to address the problem, such as begin transferring individual detainees to home countries by waiver, appoint an official to oversee Guantanamo policy, and begin parole style hearings.

* What about Obama’s indefinite detention policy? Also in the above link, a nice catch by Savage. Obama wants to close Guantanamo, but he would indefinitely hold its detainees under the laws of war — only elsewhere. And yet, at his presser, Obama said this:

“The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried,” he said, “that is contrary to who we are, contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”

That would seem to be an acknowledgement of the folly of his own policy.

* Obama must make closing Guantanamo a priority: The Post has a good editorial laying out all the things Obama could be doing right now to ameliorate the situation, and making the case that blaming Congressional resistance (which is real) for the logjam is not good enough:

What is needed above all is genuine political commitment from Mr. Obama. Having vowed to close Guantanamo, he backed away from the project in the face of political resistance. That resistance may be, as he argued yesterday, unreasonable; but it won’t be overcome if the president doesn’t make it a priority.

Obama vowed yesterday to examine every administrative avenue at his disposal to deal with the situation; he should follow through on that as well.

* GOP’s “psychological warfare” on Obamacare: Republicans widely claim Obamacare implementation will be a huge weapon against Dems in 2014, but I think Dem strategist Doug Thornell gets it right:

“A lot of this is psychological warfare — Republicans scaring Democrats into believing that this issue is [the GOP’s] silver bullet for the next election. I would tell Dems not to take the bait.”

So would I.

 * Obama stretches the facts Obamacare: Glenn Kessler takes a look at Obama’s claim that 90 percent of Americans don’t have to worry about the implementation of Obamacare, and finds that it falls short in failing to take into account the number of people who are insured that could be impacted by the new law. Conclusion:

It would be better to forthrightly say the law is a massive undertaking and the consequences are still uncertain.

As noted here yesterday, Democrats should remain vigilant about implementation and should critique ongoing problems in an effort to get the policy right. It’s the right move, politically and substantively.

* Can GOP capitalize on Obamacare implementation? David Drucker gets this right: It’s going to be hard for Republicans to reap political dividends from Obamacare implementation problems as long as the party’s committed to nothing other than full repeal of the health law. I’d add that it will be even harder if they continue to offer no meaningful alternative to it.

* The limits to the Dems’ sequester strategy: A new CBS News poll finds that Americans expect the sequester to hurt the economy by 46-35. But a large majority — 69 percent — say they personally have not been impacted by the sequester cuts, again raising the possibility that their impact may prove too scattered and diffuse to pressure Republicans back to the table to deal.

 * And Ted Cruz for President! National Review’s Robert Costa reports that the Texas Senator is seriously considering it. This is intriguing:

His supporters argue that he’d be a Barry Goldwater type — a nominee who would rattle the Republican establishment and reconnect the party with its base – but with better electoral results.

As Costa later elaborated: “Cruz’s bet is that though media says GOP wants to “reform” or change, his gut tells him that party wants spirit of 2010 in ’16, not RNC autopsy.”

Absolutely. Don’t retreat, reload!

What else?