WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee, voting along party lines, approved the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., on Thursday to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Watt, who would become the first Senate-confirmed director for the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, still faces an uphill battle to full confirmation with Republicans maintaining their opposition to his nomination. The committee voted 12 to 10 to move his nomination to the Senate floor.

Watt's prospects have not appeared to greatly improve despite an easing of tensions earlier this week on Capitol Hill over presidential appointments. Democrats and Republicans agreed to a deal to allow the confirmation of certain nominees — including that of Richard Cordray to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — to proceed. But the fate of Watt's nomination is still unclear.

"As Congress continues to seek consensus on a long-term solution for our housing finance system, we need a Senate-confirmed director in place at the Federal Housing Finance Agency," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said in a press release. "Congressman Mel Watt is well-qualified to lead the FHFA in its conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and he too should be confirmed without delay."

The committee also approved nominations by voice vote of members to sit on the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the nominations of economist Jason Furman to be a member and the chairman on the Council of Economic Advisers, and Richard Metsger to sit on the National Credit Union Administration Board.

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