Washington — North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt was confirmed Tuesday by the U.S. Senate as the new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage programs.
The final vote, requiring only a simple majority, was 57-41.
Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr broke from his party to support Watt, joining Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in voting aye on confirmation.
Watt is currently serving his 11th term representing the state's 12th District, which winds along Interstate 85 from Greensboro to Charlotte. He could be officially appointed later this week.
It's not clear yet when the special election for his seat will be held. At least six Democrats have said they will run, including three current North Carolina lawmakers: state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte and state Reps. Alma Adams and Marcus Brandon, both from Guilford County.
Both Graham and Brandon issued press releases within 10 minutes of Tuesday's confirmation vote, congratulating Watt and confirming their respective candidacy for his seat.
President Barack Obama nominated Watt to lead the agency in May, but his confirmation, along with that of dozens of other appointees, was held up by Senate Republicans through the use of chamber rules that allowed any single senator to block a confirmation vote.
On Nov. 21, Senate Democrats voted to change the chamber's rules to eliminate most filibusters on presidential nominees, despite protests by the Republican minority. Watt was the second appointee to be approved under the new rules.