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Obama urges Congress to back new housing regulator

U.S. President Barack Obama walks away from the podium after announcing Democratic Representative Mel Watt (C) as his nominee for director o
U.S. President Barack Obama walks away from the podium after announcing Democratic Representative Mel Watt (C) as his nominee for director o

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged lawmakers on Saturday to back his nominee to oversee mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Democratic Representative Mel Watt.

"Mel's represented the people of North Carolina in Congress for 20 years, and 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," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"He's the right person for the job, and that's why Congress should do its job, and confirm him without delay," Obama said.

The North Carolina lawmaker is expected to face a tough confirmation battle in the Senate, where Democrats are likely to need some Republican support to get Watt approved.

If confirmed, Watt would replace Edward DeMarco, a career civil servant who has led the Federal Housing Finance Agency in an acting capacity since 2009.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were seized by the government in 2008 as mortgage losses mounted. They have received $187.5 billion in taxpayer funds to stay afloat, while paying about $58 billion to the Treasury in dividends.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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