After nearly two years of in-fighting, Senate confirms Cordray

The Senate voted 66-34 Tuesday to confirm President Obama’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Richard Cordray was one of several controversial nominees that Republicans will allow to get an up-or-down vote after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threatened to use the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules by eliminating the ability of the minority to filibuster an executive branch nominee.

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"More than 700 days since its creation American citizens are just now getting a vote for a consumer watchdog to head the agency," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said after the vote. "Confirming Richard Cordray was the right thing to do."

Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John McCain (Ariz.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted with Democrats to confirm Cordray.

Earlier Tuesday, 17 Republicans joined Democrats in a 71-29 vote to end debate on Cordray’s nomination. 

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Republicans had objected to Cordray as a way to demand reforms to the bureau, which was created in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. CFPB was designed to protect consumers from predatory banks and lenders after the financial crisis partially caused by shady mortgage lending.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republicans have complained that the bureau lacks congressional accountability and oversight. 

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, also pointed out that Republicans want to replace Cordray's director position with a bipartisan “board of directors with staggered terms.” He also expressed concern over recent reports that the bureau is conducting “unprecedented data collection.”

“The CFPB is collecting credit card data, bank account data, mortgage data and student loan data,” Crapo said ahead of the vote. “This ultimately allows the CFPB to monitor a consumer’s monthly spending habits.”

The D.C. District Court recently ruled Cordray’s recess appointment was unconstitutional, but now with Senate backing he will be able to serve a full five-year term as head of the agency.

Earlier Tuesday, Reid announced lawmakers had a deal to avoid the “nuclear option” and hold votes on several of President Obama’s controversial nominees, in addition to Cordray.

Democrats are hoping to vote in the next two weeks on Fred Hochberg to be president of the Export-Import Bank, Thomas Perez to be secretary of Labor, and Gina McCarthy to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in addition to several National Labor Relations Board nominees.

Democrats said Cordray’s confirmation was needed to give banks and consumers certainty. Republicans argued that his nomination was delayed — nearly two years — because they were exercising the right to “advise and consent” on executive branch nominees granted under the Constitution.