In July, President Obama nominated former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to head the agency. Cordray is a strong defender of consumers who has also earned respect from the banks he worked with in Ohio. Last week, a bipartisan group of 37 state attorney generals wrote to Congress urging his confirmation. Even Ohio’s Republican attorney general Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator who defeated Cordray in last year’s election, has endorsed him for the job. He is a well-respected, reasonable and eminently qualified choice to lead the agency.
Cordray’s nomination would be a shoe-in if it weren’t for one thing: Republicans in Congress don’t want the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to exist at all. Unable to stop its creation, they have turned their energies to starving it. In May, 44 Republican senators sent a letter to the president saying that they would not confirm any nominee to head the CFPB unless the agency was first substantially weakened. Without a confirmed leader, the agency can’t fully start the work that it was designed to do.
While the agency is already overseeing credit companies and big banks, it can’t have its full oversight over mortgage companies and payday lenders until a head is confirmed. This situation is perfectly satisfactory to big lenders and the GOP leadership – but it’s bad for American consumers.
By refusing to confirm Cordray, Senate Republicans are defending the regulatory status quo, a lax approach to Wall Street excess that led us to the 2008 financial collapse. We can’t dig ourselves out of the economic hole we’re in unless our elected leaders start defending consumers with at least as much vigor as they defend big banks. That starts with finally allowing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau get to work protecting American consumers.
Senators may not like the protesters camped out in Zuccoti Park and on K Street, but they should take the energy behind them seriously. Americans are fed up with Washington ignoring Main Street in favor of Wall Street. By confirming Cordray, senators can show Americans that they care just as much about voters who have been hurt by reckless financial practices as about the campaign donors who have benefited from them.
Marge Baker is the Executive Vice President of People For the American Way.