Confrontation With Wall Street: Consumer Confirmation Battle Expected This Week

The Senate this week is expected to vote on President Obama's nomination of Richard Cordray, right, to head up a new consumer-protection agency. At left is popular consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, who helped the administration first establish the agency.

The latest political battle between the 99 percent and the 1 percent likely is to take place this week on the Senate floor, as senators are expected to vote on the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Created as the brainchild of prominent consumer advocate-turned-Democratic-Senate-candidate Elizabeth Warren, the CFPB is designed to shield consumers from the sorts of financial abuses which helped lead to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Although Warren helped establish the new agency, President Obama instead nominated Cordray to become its first permanent director.

Republicans, who have long opposed the CFPB itself, have stalled the Cordray nomination. They went so far as to technically keep the Senate in session during their summer break in order to prevent Obama from putting Cordray on the job through a recess appointment.

Putting a director in place is critical because the CFPB cannot exercise its full consumer protection authority unless a director is in place.

“Republicans acting at Wall Street’s direction have made it clear they will not confirm anyone to lead the Bureau unless its powers are weakened, to make the world safer for reckless bankers,” says Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a Washington progressive policy organization. “While we would have preferred to see Elizabeth Warren in the position, it is clear that Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray is well qualified to head the bureau. He should be confirmed so that he can begin leading the Bureau in its important mission: Protecting consumers from fraudulent financial practices.

“Americans should not allow Wall Street to block this urgently-needed appointment. The Senate must confirm Richard Cordray so that the consumer bureau can fully execute its critical role as protector of the American consumer,” Hickey adds.

In October, dozens of state attorneys generals–including Republicans and Democrats–announced their support for Cordray, calling him a fair and reasonable and well-qualified leader.
The agency was designed to help protect consumers from unfair financial practices involving credit cards and mortgages. Under Dodd-Frank, the bureau cannot supervise non-bank lenders until it has a Senate-confirmed director.

Hickey points out that the National Economic Council’s report, “Improving Americans’ Financial Security: The Importance of a CFPB Director,” highlights the fact that the non-bank sector, including credit card companies and mortgage companies (that are unregulated without a CFPB director) has taken advantage of America’s most vulnerable citizens including seniors and lower income Americans.

Cordray’s senior home-state senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown declared publicly last month that GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts says that he supports Cordray and believes he deserves an up-or-down vote.

Interestingly, Elizabeth Warren now is running to defeat Scott Brown in next year’s elections.


Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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