Obama takes victory lap

Obama takes victory lap

Two days after defying Republicans and appointing Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Obama visited the new agency to take a little time to gloat.

Making a victory lap of sorts at the independent agency, Obama cracked a joke, telling employees that he came by to help their new director move in.

More seriously, a seemingly content Obama called the man he tapped a “great director who is tailor-made to lead this agency.”

With Cordray at the helm, after months of delay, the agency will help Americans better digest mortgages, student loans and credit card fees before they become entangled in debt, Obama said before a packed room of more than 100 CFPB employees.

“Now that Richard is your director, you can finally exercise your responsibilities under the law,” Obama said. “We can help give people the clear and transparent information they need” to make the right financial decisions, he said.

Obama was welcomed by an extremely supportive crowd of bureau employees who loudly cheered his arrival and were especially boisterous when Cordray introduced himself as the official director of the agency. A lottery was held Thursday night to dole out seats to employees who wanted to attend the event.

The trip to the agency came just two days after Obama made the surprise decision to appoint Cordray to the agency while Congress was on recess. 

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Republicans have been running pro forma sessions to prevent such an appointment, and they expressed outrage Wednesday over Obama's decision. 

The president, who has made it clear he plans to run against Congress as he maps out a path to reelection, showed Friday that he is interested in keeping the story alive with a visit that seemed to poke at Republicans. 

Since returning from Hawaii on Tuesday, an aggressive Obama — whom some in his own party had labeled as lacking a backbone — has entered his reelection year looking to capitalize on a bruised Republican caucus on Capitol Hill. At the same time, he has attempted to steal some thunder from Republicans.

When he announced Cordray’s appointment in Ohio on Wednesday, Obama made it clear that he would not wait for Congress to act on issues he deems pressing.

“When Congress refuses to act, and as a result hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” he said.

“I’ve got an obligation to act on behalf of the American people. And I’m not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people we were elected to serve. Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for the middle class.”

Obama spoke just a few hours after the release of a positive jobs report that showed the economy added 200,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 pecent.

Discussing the jobs numbers, Obama said the economy is “starting to rebound.”

“We have made real progress,” he said. "We’re not going to let up.”

Still, the president acknowledged, “There are a lot of people who are still hurting out there. Obviously we have a lot more work to do.”

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