The president had installed Cordray as agency director in January 2012 using a recess appointment, bypassing Senate confirmation. But a federal court subsequently ruled that the appointment was illegal, and Cordray had until Wednesday only remained in charge of the agency as the government appealed that decision.
Obama on Wednesday said while Cordray was "imminently qualified," Republicans held up his nomination because "they didn't like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place."
But, the president said, Americans were "better off" because he "took steps on my own" to install him atop the agency.
The president pointed to work by the CFPB to recover over $400 million to six million American consumers who were the victims of predatory financial practices.
"Today, veterans have access to tools they need to defend against dishonest lenders and mortgage brokers," Obama added.
Obama also said that "people don't try as many things" when they knew the government was keeping watch.
Cordray, for his part, thanked the Senate for the chance to "persevere," saying all he "wanted was an up-or-down vote."
Both Cordray and Obama took time to thank Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who launched into the national consciousness as the principal champion of the CFPB during her time as a presidential adviser. Warren had a front-row seat to the ceremony, chatting with White House adviser Valerie Jarrett before the event began.
"She was poking and prodding people for a long time to make things happen," Obama said.