By Erik Wasson - 07/20/13 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama pivoted from emotional discussions of race to more mundane consumer financial issues in his weekly address on Saturday.
So after a surprise monologue on race relations in the White House press room on Friday, Obama pivoted back to credit card disclosure forms and shady mortgage lenders.
The president used the Senate confirmation this week of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray to promote the law and paint the GOP as standing in the way of reform.
“Two years ago, I nominated a man named Rich Cordray, a former attorney general from Ohio, to run this consumer protection bureau. But Republicans in the Senate refused to give him a simple up-or-down vote, not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place,” Obama said.
Cordray was finally confirmed this week after Senate Democrats and Republicans came together on a wide-ranging compromise on the confirmation of executive branch nominees.
At the beginning of the week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threatened to change the standing rules of the Senate using a simple majority vote--a move known as the "nuclear option."
Under this threat, some Republicans led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) agreed to stop filibustering Cordray in exchange for Obama agreeing to nominate new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board.
Obama said the work Cordray has already done as a temporary recess appointee has been important.
“Because of the work that’s been done at the CFPB over the past two years, today, mortgage lenders, student lenders, payday lenders, and credit reporting and debt collection agencies all face greater scrutiny,” Obama said.
And if they don’t play by the rules, you now have somewhere to go to get some measure of justice. In fact, the CFPB has already addressed more than 175,000 complaints from every state.
Obama said the CFPB has successfully encouraged 700 colleges to make the terms of their student loan packages clearer.
“And if you’ve noticed that some credit card forms are actually easier to understand than they used to be, that’s because of the work that Rich’s team and others in the administration have done,” Obama said.
He credited the bureau with enabling $400 million in refunds over unscrupulous financial packages.
The president acknowledged that the economy continues to struggle, though with unemployment above 7 percent.
“We’ve still got a long way to go to restore the sense of security that too many middle-class families are still fighting to rebuild. But if we keep moving forward with our eyes fixed on that North Star of a growing middle class, then I’m confident we’ll get to where we need to go,” Obama said.