Senate Dems hold the line on consumer bureau

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The letter was signed by all Democratic senators except Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The Senate's two independents, Sens. Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.) also signed.

The letter marks the latest stage of an entrenched standoff over Cordray's bid to stay on as director of the CFPB. Republicans vowed in January that they would block a vote on Cordray or any CFPB director until there were several structural changes to the agency, which they claim is unaccountable. They want to see the director position turned into a multi-member board, its budget brought under the control of appropriators, and to give other regulators more veto power over its rules.

But Democrats behind the letter argued that these demands are simply efforts to weaken the agency, and are vowing not to cave.

"They want to hold up his nomination for the sole purpose of trying to weaken the consumer agency, and we're pushing back," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who actually came up with the idea for the bureau and helped create it as a special adviser to the president.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) spearheaded the effort, and demanded an up or down vote on Cordray's nomination, arguing the bureau has proven its worth since opening its doors in July 2011.

"Opponents of the consumer bureau continue to use the same old talking points even though they no longer hold water," he said. "They try and claim that the bureau is unaccountable, but the facts prove them wrong."

Democrats indicated that they would be making a public push to increase pressure on Republicans for holding up Cordray's nomination, arguing that the consumer bureau's work is so publicly popular it could break the logjam.

"Part of this is making sure the American people know what's at stake," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). "You're going to have a growing chorus of Americans saying, 'What are you trying to do?'…That is the message that has to come through loud and clear."

Obama actually had to place Cordray in his current position via a recess appointment after Republicans made the same promise before he was first nominated in 2010. That appointment is currently facing a legal challenge, and could be ruled invalid since a court has ruled on a separate case that three other recess appointments made the same day were unconstitutional.

Obama has re-nominated Cordray to continue working at the bureau, as his recess appointment expires at the end of 2013.