Mulvaney in Senate testimony: I'm required to be here, but not to answer your questions

Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWho watches the ‘watchdog?’ It time for accountability for the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump suggests China is easing pressure on North Korea because of trade fight | Mulvaney taps top aide as No. 2 at consumer bureau | House Republican to offer bill to curtail Trump's trade powers MORE, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), told a Senate panel on Thursday that he's not legally bound to answer lawmakers' questions, only to appear before them, in comments meant to stress his agency's independence.

"While I have to be here by statute, I don't think I have to answer your questions," Mulvaney told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. "If you take a look at the actual statute that requires me to be here, it says that I 'shall appear' before the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs of the Senate. And I'm here and I'm happy to do it."

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"I want to make it clear, I'm going to answer every question that I can today. I'm not using this as an excuse not to answer your questions."

Mulvaney, who concurrently serves as the White House budget director, made a similar remark on Wednesday during an appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, when he said that "it would be my statutory right to just sit here and twiddle my thumbs while you all ask questions."

Mulvaney, who has long been critical of the CFPB, was trying to make a point about the independent status of the agency, which he has, at times, cast as rogue and in need of more aggressive congressional oversight.

He took over as the bureau's acting director in November, after its first chief, Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayLiberals view Kavanaugh as existential threat to consumer bureau Mulvaney appoints top aide as consumer bureau acting No. 2 On The Money: Strong June as economy adds 213K jobs | China blames Trump for 'biggest trade war' in history | Consumer bureau deputy to resign, end legal fight with Trump MORE, stepped down. Cordray is now a Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio. 

Earlier this month, Mulvaney asked lawmakers to dramatically weaken his agency's power, calling for changes that include Congress taking control of the CFPB's budget and giving the president the ability to fire its director.

“The Bureau is far too powerful, and with precious little oversight of its activities,” wrote Mulvaney, who as a congressman had opposed the CFPB’s existence.