Mulvaney unsure of when he will leave consumer bureau

Mulvaney unsure of when he will leave consumer bureau
© Greg Nash

The acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said Thursday he thinks he could remain in charge of the agency for as long as another six months while waiting for President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE to nominate and the Senate to confirm a new director.

Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Trump declares national emergency at border Puerto Rico governor threatens legal action over national emergency declaration: 'See you in court' MORE, the Office of Management and Budget director, said he has "no idea" how much longer he'll be the CFPB acting chief. He was appointed to lead the agency in November under the Federal Vacancies Act as a temporary replacement.

Mulvaney said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event, “The statute allows me to stay until the end of June, but if the president nominates someone before then, the statute allows me to stay until they’re confirmed.”

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Trump has not nominated a new director for the CFPB, an agency Republicans have indicated they would prefer to eliminate and that Democrats treasured under the control of former chief Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayOn The Money: Consumer bureau proposes scrapping borrower safeguards from payday loan rule | Negotiators running out of time to avert shutdown | Trump nominates World Bank critic as its next chief Consumer bureau proposes scrapping borrower safeguards from payday loan rule Supreme Court should do what Congress won’t: Rein in the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection MORE. Credit union advocates that met with Trump on Monday said the president told them he was still sorting through candidates.

Mulvaney, a conservative who sought to eliminate the bureau, has been fiercely criticized by Democrats, financial sector watchdog groups and progressive nonprofits. They say he's derailing the bureau from its mission, devised by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDNC punts on measure to reduce role of corporate PAC money Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 Newsom endorses Kamala Harris for president MORE (D-Mass.), to aggressively police banks, credit companies and lenders.

"It tainted by its original sin," Mulvaney said of the CFPB.

Republicans and business groups have praised Mulvaney for using what they consider the CFPB director's excessive power to unwind a slew of rules and lawsuits inherited from Cordray. Mulvaney said his goal is to restrain the CFPB's actions and be more responsive to the needs of companies regulated by the agency.

"I am the judge, I am the jury, and I am the executioner in some of these investigations, and that is completely wrong," Mulvaney said Thursday. “If the statute requires us to do something, we will do it. If the statute doesn’t require us to do something, we will not do it.”

Despite Mulvaney's qualms with the CFPB's old leadership, he had high praise for career bureau staffers and said that "most of the folks I work with are extraordinarily talented."

Mulvaney, a former attorney and congressman, said that the bureau has produced "some of the best legal work" he's seen.

He said the agency was mainly staffed by "technocrats ... there to execute the law," but argued "we’d be kidding ourselves” without noting the proportionally higher level of "activists" employed by the bureau.

“I was expecting it to be much worse than it is," Mulvaney said. “I was very worried that it would be me versus 1,700 people.” 

Democratic lawmakers and political groups backed a lawsuit against Trump and Mulvaney from the CFPB's deputy director, Leandra English. A veteran CFPB employee, English was appointed to the bureau's deputy role by Cordray in November, shortly before he announced his plan to resign.

English cited a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the bureau, that calls on the CFPB deputy director to serve as acting chief until a permanent replacement is confirmed. 

The Trump administration argued that the Vacancies Act, which allows the president to appoint a Senate-confirmed official to serve as acting chief of a federal agency, supersedes Dodd-Frank.

Judge Timothy Kelly of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia rejected English's claim in November.