"Acting as such is only increasing the cloud of uncertainty around the CFPB and the economy, which is why I did not attend the hearing today," he said.
Instead, Republicans at the hearing focused their energies on critiquing CFPB policies, including its efforts to gather data about consumers to inform their work.
Responding to reports that the CFPB was gearing up to collect data on how millions of Americans rely on financial products, GOP lawmakers asked aloud if the CFPB was overreaching.
"This is going to sound downright creepy," said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). "People are going to be bothered by the fact that there's this federal agency that's collecting data on the behavior of people like you and me."
Cordray defended the collection, arguing it was essential to keep up with the private sector that is also collecting all the data it can for analysis.
"It's the way of the world. The big banks know more about you than you know about yourself," said Cordray. "The notion that regulators wouldn't keep up with them in trying to do our job … would be quite misguided."
Meanwhile, Democrats continued to hammer on Republicans for blocking Cordray's nomination to stay on as director of the CFPB. GOP lawmakers are refusing to consider his nomination before structural changes are made to his agency.
"They still don't have the votes to undercut the agency, so they are determined to hold your nomination hostage," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who set up the agency before Cordray took the reins. "This is about a minority that doesn't want a watchdog that will keep an eye on big banks to make sure they don't cheat their customers."
On Monday, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) announced that Cordray would not be allowed to testify before his panel as CFPB director. He contended that a controversial recess appointment that installed Cordray in place is destined to be thrown out after three similar appointments were ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.
Hensarling said the ruling against three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board "makes clear" that Cordray is not legally the director of the agency. Cordray's appointment is being challenged as part of a separate lawsuit, and has not yet received a ruling.
Democrats on that committee have vowed to fight the move, and plan to invite Cordray to testify at hearings as a minority witness.