Dems clear way for Senate OK of NC's Watt as Obama housing pick

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats have used the Senate's newly eased filibuster procedures to clear the way for confirmation of the man President Barack Obama wants to become a top housing regulator.

The Senate voted 57-40 on Tuesday to end a Republican filibuster, or delaying tactics, against Rep. Mel Watt.

Until Democrats forced through changes last month, it took 60 votes to end filibusters - a margin Democrats cannot achieve without support from some of the chamber's 45 Republicans.

In May, Obama picked the veteran North Carolina Democrat to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee about half of all US mortgages.

Until now, the nomination had languished because of Republican complaints that Watt is unqualified. Democrats say that is untrue.

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