Senate GOP blocks Obama’s nominee to lead consumer bureau

Senate Republicans voted nearly in unison Thursday to block the confirmation of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 

Republicans said prior to the 53-45 vote that President Obama must implement greater “transparency and accountability” measures at the financial watchdog agency before they will agree to confirm any nominee for director.

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“We’re not going to let the president put another unelected czar in place, unaccountable to the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

Sixty votes would have been needed to break the Republican filibuster of the nominee. 

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was the only Republican to vote yes on moving forward with the nominee. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted present.

“I disagree with Republicans on this issue,” Brown said in a statement to The Hill. “Mr. Cordray deserves an up or down vote, and I look forward to supporting his nomination. Having a leader at the helm is critical at a time when the agency is getting up and running. The unfortunate truth is that there are still bad actors in the financial system who will take advantage of vulnerable people in our society.”

Brown's decision to break ranks on the vote comes as he faces a reelection battle with Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the CFPB who is trying to recapture the Senate seat formerly held by the late Edward Kennedy for Democrats. 

McConnell said the director position needs to be replaced by a board, which would decentralize power at the bureau. Republicans argue the structure of the CFPB gives far too much power over the financial sector to a single person and say the agency’s funding needs to be subject to the regular appropriations process.

But Democrats and the White House argued throughout the week that Republicans were filibustering a qualified nominee to stop implementation of the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform act, the law responsible for creating the CFPB. 

“For the first time in Senate history, Republicans are poised to block a qualified nominee solely because they don’t like the federal agency he will lead,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) 

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) echoed Reid’s sentiment just prior to the vote.

“We already had this debate,” Franken said. “During consideration of Dodd-Frank last year, there were attempts to weaken the CFPB, and those attempts were defeated.”

The White House has left on the table the possibility that they will attempt to place Cordray in the position through a recess appointment.

Cordray, a Democrat, was formerly the attorney general of Ohio.

— Last updated at 11:26 a.m.