GOP seeks curbs on ‘rogue’ consumer bureau

House Republicans aren’t letting up in the fight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) despite having suffered a major defeat over the summer.

The House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday began debating six bills aimed at curbing the watchdog agency as Republicans renewed their argument that the Dodd-Frank creation is unaccountable and in need of reform.

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Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) described the bills as “modest, common-sense” measures to rein in a bureau with a “breathtaking lack of accountability.” He said the agency in its current incarnation could go “rogue” whenever it wants.

Hensarling’s markup sessions are taking place after a major setback in GOP efforts to change the bureau.

Senate Democrats used the threat of “going nuclear” over the summer to push through several of President Obama’s stalled nominees, including CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

That left Republicans empty-handed after they refused to confirm any CFPB director until legislation was passed to restructure the bureau and how it’s funded.

After the deal was struck to confirm Cordray, several Senate Republicans advanced more minor measures to alter the CFPB. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who voted to confirm Cordray, unveiled a bill to create an inspector general for the agency.

But their House counterparts aren’t backing down from the earlier demands, and are now pushing for the same changes to the CFPB that drove the Cordray standoff.

House Republicans are pushing legislation that would replace the agency’s director position with a bipartisan commission, bring the agency’s budget under the control of congressional appropriators and give other regulators more veto power over its rules.

At Wednesday’s markup, GOP lawmakers stressed the need to make the agency more accountable while pointing out that commissions are in place at other financial regulators.

In response, Democrats trotted out their same argument against the bills — that they are merely attempts to defang an agency that the GOP has opposed from the start.

“Behind this smokescreen, we all know the true purpose of this hearing is to give my Republican colleagues another opportunity to push legislation to dismantle an effective agency by undermining its leadership, agency and autonomy,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Republicans augmented their push to alter the CFPB with a trio of new measures.

One, from Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), would require agency employees to be paid according to the same scale as most federal employees. Republicans had complained in the past about some large salaries paid to high-ranking bureau workers.

The remaining bills target a relatively new GOP concern about the lengths to which the agency is going to collect consumer data to inform its efforts.

A second bill from Duffy would bar the CFPB from collecting consumer data unless the agency receives explicit permission from consumers beforehand.

Legislation from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), meanwhile, would require the CFPB to provide a free annual report to consumers that ask for one. The report would detail all information gathered about the consumer, where it came from, and who the CFPB shared it with.

As Republicans advanced these new measures, there were few signs that the hotly partisan battle had cooled. The panel was set to spend nearly all of Wednesday debating the measures, with the markup likely stretching into Thursday. 

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