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Watt, first sitting member of Congress blocked since 1843

Mel Watt can put this distinction next to his congressional biography -- with Republicans' successful blocking of his nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, he appears to be the first sitting member of Congress whose nomination has been defeated by filibuster since 1843.

The North Carolina Democrat joins Rep. Caleb Cushing of Massachusetts. Two days before Cushing left office, having pledged not to run again, President John Tyler nominated him to become his Treasury secretary in a lame-duck session of Congress. But he was blocked twice, according to the House Historian's office.

Thirty years later, Cushing was rejected again, this time for appointment as Ulysses S. Grant's nominee for Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1874.

Cushing had been an "early and open critic" of slavery, but was against undoing it out of fear Southern states would secede, according to "Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union." 

Cushing, who served as chairman of the 1860 Democratic conventions, was labeled "the South's favorite New Englander." He was even against the notion of "popular sovereignty," which would have allowed new territories to determine for themselves whether to allow slavery or not. It was seen then as a compromise position between pro-slavery factions and abolitionists. 

That left Cushing with few friends -- and some old enemies -- when his nomination came up for the top spot on the Supreme Court.

Two other sitting members have been filibustered since 1949 -- Hilda Solis in 2009, nominated by President Obama for Labor Secretary, and Rob Portman, nominated by George W. Bush for US Trade Representative in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service.

But opposition, in both cases, was withdrawn.

Ironically, Portman was one of two Republicans to vote for Watt today.