Politics

Banking Committee Democrats Unsure Of How To Respond To Mel Watt Sexual Harassment Allegations

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter

Democrats are unsure of how to respond to the news that Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt is under investigation for allegedly sexually harassing an employee after Politico broke the story Friday.

“There’s a lot of people talking in the committee about what’s our role in all of this,” North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp told Politico.

Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that oversees Watt’s agency, declined to “comment on the matter directly,” Politico reported Monday.

Neither Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, nor Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, the committee’s ranking Democrat, would give comment “even though the FHFA falls under their committee’s jurisdiction,” reported Politico.

Politico reached out to more than 20 lawmakers, including 19 Democrats, but none of them would comment on the Watt investigation that has been going on for more than a month, according to a story Monday.

Watt was appointed to his position managing mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by former President Barack Obama in 2014. His five-year term expires on Jan. 6, but if Watt leaves early, President Donald Trump’s administration has at least two options to select a successor. (RELATED: Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Regulator Under Investigation For Sexual Harassment)

One of the agency’s three deputy directors could be picked to succeed Watt or Trump could take advantage of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to appoint an official who has already been confirmed by the Senate, reported Politico.

Watt, a former Democratic congressman from North Carolina, has been accused of “repeatedly making inappropriate sexual advances” toward a female staffer who wanted to discuss career matters, reported Politico Friday.

The employee alleges that Watt made suggestive comments toward her in several instances. Watt discussed his “attraction” toward the woman despite his being married during a dinner meeting she thought was related to work in April 2016. He also talked about a tattoo on the woman’s ankle and asked, “If I kissed that one would it lead to more?”

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