U.S. Rep. Mel L. Watt (D-NC) speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Not long after Rep. Mel Watt raised his hand for a Senate confirmation hearing, he found himself on the hot seat.
"Any nominee must be politically independent," said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee questioned whether Watt, a Democrat, can be independent.
He's nominated to be director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has run mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac since the government bailed them out in the housing crisis.
Critics worry he will use his position to push a politically liberal agenda.
"You're saying you think there is legal authority for the director to fund social initiatives," Crapo said.
"It's quite explicit in the statute," Watt said.
Political expert Michael Bitzer said Watt has a lot of fears to calm.
"Can Republicans get over those concerns about his political and social beliefs to confirm him to this post," Bitzer said.
The stakes in these confirmation hearings go beyond Watt. Others, including state Sen. Malcolm Graham, said they want to run for Watt's congressional seat, but "Congressman Watt is still the congressman until he is confirmed, so confirmation is very important," Graham.
Watt walks away from Thursday's hearing still in the game but unsure whether he'll win in the end.
"All I can do is answer the questions and try to be responsive to the concerns that are raised," Watt said.
Watt said he expects to spend a lot of his Fourth of July holiday responding to written questions from the Senate Banking Committee.
He said Thursday he's hoping that group will vote up or down on his confirmation by August.