Obama won't rule out recess appointment at consumer bureau

President Obama is not ruling out a recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), White House officials said Tuesday.

Officials said the president is leaving all options on the table when it comes to recess appointments, and that includes Cordray's bid to head the CFPB.

While a senior White House official said Obama would not be making any recess appointments Tuesday, the official would not say whether the president would make them in the coming days.

ThinkProgress, a liberal advocacy group, reported earlier Tuesday that the White House was planning a recess appointment either Tuesday or Wednesday, citing an unnamed source.

The fight over Cordray's nomination has dragged on for weeks. Liberal and consumer advocates have been pushing the White House to put him in place by any means necessary following the move by Senate Republicans in December to block the selection.

Congress has been kept in a series of brief, pro forma sessions during the holiday break in an attempt to prevent the president from circumventing the confirmation process to recess-appoint controversial picks like Cordray.

Advocates of the CFPB believed the president had a brief window to push through Cordray on Tuesday. The 20th Amendment of the Constitution states that Congress shall assemble at least once year, beginning at noon on Jan. 3. Cordray backers argued that the beginning of the new session means that the previous session must have ended, opening a window for a recess appointment.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt used the seconds-long window between the two sessions to push through nearly 200 nominees in 1903, but that maneuver has been all but abandoned since.

Even before Cordray was nominated to head the new agency, which is charged with enforcing consumer protection laws that pertain to financial products, Senate Republicans had vowed to block any selection for director. 

A filibuster-proof bloc of GOP senators said they believe the bureau as constructed is too powerful and lacks oversight, and said any director nominee would be blocked until several changes were made to the bureau. Among those changes were replacing the director position with a multimember board and subjecting the agency's budget to the congressional appropriations process.

The White House and Democrats in both chambers have shown no interest in meeting those requests, howver. The administration insists the bureau is in the best interests of the American people and needs a full-time director in place.

By law, the CFPB cannot fully realize its power until a director is in place. While it can enforce existing laws it receives from other regulators, it cannot utilize new powers granted under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, such as regulating nonbank financial institutions like payday lenders and mortgage servicers.