WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has started the process to end debate on Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., President Obama's nominee to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Obama named Watt in May to succeed acting director Edward DeMarco, who has led the agency since 2009. The nomination languished over the summer, after some Republicans signaled their lack of support for Watt, citing concerns that the position should be filled by a technocrat with industry experience instead of a politician. Watt has served in the House since 1993, and is a senior member on the House Financial Services Committee.

"There is no legitimate reason Mel Watt should not be confirmed as the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and I look forward to the Senate vote on his nomination later this week," said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, in a statement Monday evening. "It is important to fill this role as soon as we can, so the agency can fully assist in helping stabilize the housing market as our economy continues to recover from the financial crisis. Mel's decades of experience with housing finance policy, and his proven ability to get results by working with colleagues, consumer advocates, and industry leaders make him an ideal pick to lead the FHFA."

Watt's nomination advanced out of the banking panel in July with a vote down party lines.

The White House is said to be mounting a final push this week to help get the lawmaker's nomination through the Senate, including meeting with banking industry officials, according to press reports. Observers, however, have remained pessimistic that Watt has the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and win confirmation.

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