Senate Republicans renew blockade of Obama's Consumer Bureau pick

Senate Republicans are renewing their vow to block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unless major changes are made to its structure.

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In a letter sent to President Obama on Friday, 43 Republican senators committed to refusing approval of any nominee to head the consumer watchdog until the bureau underwent significant reform. Lawmakers signing on to the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Trump asks court to block release of tax returns to Congress | Private sector adds 330K jobs in July, well short of expectations Senate panel advances first three spending bills McConnell lays out GOP demands for government-funding deal MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.

"The CFPB as created by the deeply flawed Dodd-Frank Act is one of the least accountable in Washington," said McConnell. "Today’s letter reaffirms a commitment by 43 Senators to fix the poorly thought structure of this agency that has unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions — but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability.”

The two GOP senators who did not sign on to the letter were Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Tenn.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate eyeing possible weekend finish for T infrastructure bill Kaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Overnight Defense: Senate panel votes to scrap Iraq war authorizations | Police officer fatally stabbed outside Pentagon ID'd | Biden admin approves first Taiwan arms sale MORE (Ohio). Corker is instead looking at legislative ways to boost the bureau's accountability, according to his spokeswoman. And Portman sent a letter to Cordray Friday calling on him to back the GOP-preferred changes as a way to prove his independence from the White House.

The refreshed blockade comes just days after President Obama re-nominated Richard Cordray to serve as CFPB director. The president installed Cordray in the position one year ago, using a controversial recess appointment after running into similar Republican opposition.

"The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them," the president said when he made the pick. "And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him."

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonCornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Trump faces tough path to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac overhaul Several hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan MORE (D-S.D.) dismissed the latest GOP pronouncement as "just politics at play."

"The CFPB enjoys overwhelming public support, and there is no evidence that the bureau is unaccountable and that structural changes are necessary," Johnson said. "The market needs certainty, and blocking Richard Cordray's nomination is a disservice to consumers and industry alike."

Cordray's recess appointment, due to run through the end of 2013, has come under fresh scrutiny, with many believing the move could be ruled unconstitutional. One week ago, a federal appeals court ruled that a trio of recess appointments made the same day to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional, leading many to believe it is only a matter of time under Cordray's appointment faces a similar fate.

GOP lawmakers originally agreed to block any nominee to head the agency in May 2011, before Cordray was even nominated and the CFPB began operations. 

Republicans argue the new agency lacks accountability, particularly from Congress, and want to see major changes to how it is run before they would be willing to consider a nominee.

In particular, Republicans want to see the top of the bureau changed so it is run by a bipartisan, five-member commission, as opposed to a lone director. 

They also want to see the bureau's funding fall under the control of congressional appropriators — it currently is funded via a revenue stream directly from the Federal Reserve, and its funding levels cannot be altered by Congress. Republicans also want to give other regulators greater power to veto CFPB rules that could pose a threat to the safety and soundness of financial institutions.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranKaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Seven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal MORE (R-Kan.) filed legislation today to achieve those goals.

The demands are the same as the ones Republicans made roughly a year and a half ago, but there is little indication that there has been much movement from either side. Democrats and CFPB backers have dismissed the demands as less an attempt to bring more accountability to the bureau than an effort to weaken it. They have refused to consider the changes.