Republicans Block Black Congressman and Civil Rights Lawyer From Key Obama Appointments

Senate Republicans have blocked two key nominees by President Obama.

By Brentin Mock Oct 31, 2013

Today, Republicans in the Senate voted to block two key Obama nominees: Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and attorney Patricia Millett for D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. Watt, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was apparently blocked because Republicans said they didn’t want a politician running the beleagured housing agency, according to Politico. The FHFA is expected to do more to help homeowners and those who’ve been displaced from their homes due to the housing crisis that started in 2009 — a crisis that hit homeowners of color hard while leaving them out of the benefits of the current recovery. 

Watt is a real estate lawyer, and in Congress he serves as a member of the Financial Services committee. He has advocated for policies to secure affordable housing and end predatory lending. 

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge said in a statement that she is "very disappointed" that Watt wasn’t advanced forward to lead the housing agency. There is only one other time in history that a sitting member of Congress has been blocked from the President’s nomination to a Cabinet-level post — Rep. Caleb Cushing of Massachusettes for Treasury — and that was before the Civil War. 

"This is a disgrace to this body and a disservice to the American people," said Rep. Fudge. 

Also blocked was attorney Patricia Millett, who formerly worked for the U.S. Justice Department and is a board trustee for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Millett has been voted one of Washington, D.C.’s 100 Most Influential Women Lawyers by the National Law Journal and one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C. by Washingtonian Magazine. She’s also a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. 

But that didn’t stop Senate Republicans from blocking her nomination to the federal appeals court. According to Doug Kendal, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, Millett is a "perfect example" of the kind of nominee who lacks any ideological agenda, citing her work for the Solicitor General office under both Democratic and Republican administrations. "Even Ted Cruz recognizes that Millett is nothing short of a legal rock star," wrote Kendall, though Cruz didn’t bother to vote on her nomination today.  

The D.C. Circut Appeals court, which is considered the second highest in the land, currently has three vacancies. Had she been confirmed, Millett would have been the sixth woman in history to serve as a judge there.