WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Republicans have blocked President Barack Obama's nominee to head the federal agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Senate voted Thursday 56-42 for Congressman Melvin Watt's nomination. But that was 4 short of the 60 votes needed to end GOP delaying tactics.

Watt is a North Carolina Democrat whom Obama picked to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency as the wounded housing industry has begun to recover. Democrats said Watt's 21 years in the House, on the Financial Services Committee, gave him expertise needed for the job.

Republicans say Watt is too political, while conservative groups have attacked his support for government involvement in the housing industry.

North Carolina Democrats are criticizing Republicans who have blocked the confirmation path for U.S. Rep. Mel Watt to a key home mortgage post -- including some politicians who want to succeed him in Congress if he gets the job.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the giant government-owned mortgage lenders that own or back half of U.S. mortgages.

Watt said later he didn't plan to withdraw from the nomination, announced by President Barack Obama in the spring.

George Battle III is one of at least four Democrats seeking the 12th Congressional District post currently held by Watt. Battle says Watt and the American people deserve an up or down vote on the nomination.

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