However, Schumer suggested that even if Republicans succeed in blocking Cordray, Democrats can continue to hammer them on the issue going forward.
"This is going to be a bellwether issue. Not just today, but throughout 2012 and into the campaign," he said. "We're beginning to see that the hard wall that Republicans have put up ... is beginning to break."
Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee sought to paint a stark contrast between Cordray's backers and Republicans seeking changes to the bureau, and to tap into the same vein of populist anger the president touched on in a speech Tuesday focused on economic fairness. They argued that a vote for Cordray is a vote for Main Street over the nation's largest financial institutions.
"This is happening simply because Republicans want to, in my view, protect Wall Street," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). "This is really about whose side you're on."
Banks and the financial industry opposed the creation of the CFPB during the drafting of Dodd-Frank, arguing that the bureau could end up imposing burdensome regulations without taking into account the impact on the safety of the banking system.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) jabbed at another recipient of public anger and distrust — the Federal Reserve — which once handled some consumer protection responsibilities that now fall under the CFPB's jurisdiction.
He said the Fed "did not lift a finger" to stop predatory lending in the build-up to the financial crisis because it was not a priority for the central bank.
"Consumer protection wasn't in the penthouse suite of the Federal Reserve," he said. "Consumer protection was locked in the basement, abandoned."
"The Federal Reserve is not capable ... of doing consumer regulation because they think other things are more important," added Schumer.