It’s been nearly six months since President Obama picked former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as his nominee to head the recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But with Senate Republicans continuing to block a vote on Cordray’s appointment, the President has decided to go ahead and use his authority to fill the position by making a recess appointment.
“Today the President will appoint Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” writes White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. “[Republicans] refused to let the Senate go forward with an up or down vote. It’s not because Republicans think Cordray isn’t qualified for the job, they simply believe that the American public doesn’t need a watchdog at all. Well, we disagree.
“And we can’t wait for Republicans in the Senate to act. Now, you might hear some folks across the aisle criticize this ‘recess appointment.’ It’s probably the same folks who don’t think we need a tough consumer watchdog in the first place. Those critics might tell you that Wall Street should write their own rules. Or you might hear them say the American people are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves. Again, we disagree with those critics.”
Pfeiffer also attempts to preempt opponents’ arguments that Senators are still technically in session, thus preventing the President from making a recess appointment.
“The Senate has effectively been in recess for weeks, and is expected to remain in recess for weeks,” he writes. “In an overt attempt to prevent the President from exercising his authority during this period, Republican Senators insisted on using a gimmick called ‘pro forma’ sessions, which are sessions during which no Senate business is conducted and instead one or two Senators simply gavel in and out of session in a matter of seconds. But gimmicks do not override the President’s constitutional authority to make appointments to keep the government running.”
Consumers Union’s senior policy counsel Pamela Banks praises the President’s decision to end the stalemate. “Congress created the CFPB to be a watchdog for consumers, and it has to have a director to put its full powers to work,” she writes. “This consumer watchdog has been muzzled by the political process for way too long. This move is the right move for consumers. We need someone to stand up to protect people from abuses by big banks and shady lenders. Richard Cordray is a good choice with support by people on both sides of the political aisle, and it’s time to let him get to work. Today’s appointment means the CFPB finally will be able to protect consumers from unscrupulous lenders, financial scams and other rip-offs.”
Early in December, after Republican Senators made it clear they were going to stymie the appointment process, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese, told Consumerist that the White House would pursue all available options in making sure the CFPB leadership position was filled in a prompt manner.
“Our hope is that those Republicans that stood in the way of Richard Cordray being nominated will reassess that position,” he said at the time. “And we’re not gonna let up in taking the case to the American people, that they [Republicans] are not in the right place, they are not where consumers are on this issue and frankly they’re not where the financial system is either.”
America’s Consumer Watchdog [WhiteHouse.gov]