Bipartisan House bill would replace consumer director with panel

Bipartisan House bill would replace consumer director with panel
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of House members on Wednesday released a bill that would replace the director of the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with a five-person commission.

The bill from Reps. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossEx-GOP lawmaker joins family firm  Ex-GOP lawmaker joins Florida lobbying firm Incoming GOP lawmaker says he may have violated campaign finance law MORE (R-Fla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerScalise, Wagner plan to introduce discharge petition for abortion bill House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 GOP scrambles to prevent shutdown after right-wing insurrection MORE (R-Mo.) and David ScottDavid Albert ScottOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Democrats turn down White House invitation for shutdown talks Tennessee high court rules man who placed secret cam in 13-year-old's bedroom not guilty of child porn MORE (D-Ga.) would rename the CFPB and replace its director with a bipartisan panel.

While the bill would easily pass the House, it would likely be filibustered in the Senate by Democrats who have protested changes to the CFPB.

Under the bill, the CFPB would become the Financial Product Safety Commission, directed by a panel appointed by the president. No more than three commissioners could be from the same political party, and the president could remove a member for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance.”

The bill is an attempt to rein in the CFPB director’s sole control over the agency’s extensive authority. Republicans have long insisted that the bureau, opened in 2013, is too powerful, immune from congressional oversight and dependent on the whims of the director.

The CFPB issued a slew of regulations and pursued aggressive actions against financial companies suspected of wrongdoing under former director 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. While Democrats praised Cordray for his tough oversight of lenders, Republicans and the financial sector argued the CFPB overstepped its boundaries.

Supporters of the CFPB commission say a five-person panel would provide more stability for the agency and prevent any political ideology from dominating the agenda. Acting CFPB Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyMulvaney told Trump officials their 'highest priority' will be deregulation: Axios High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Trump declares national emergency at border MORE, a staunch conservative, has enraged liberal former allies of the bureau by scaling back the agency’s operations.

Democrats say installing a CFPB commission would hinder the agency from fulfilling its mission, laid out in the Dodd-Frank Act, to protect consumers from risky financial products and fraud. They insist that Republicans could kneecap the CFPB by refusing to confirm commissioners.

The bill seeks to limit those concerns by allowing the commission to approve all agency actions with just two of five commissioners in place.

Major financial sector lobbying groups that have sought to rein in the bureau endorsed the bill shortly after its release.

The Consumer Bankers Association, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions and Credit Union National Association praised the measure in Wednesday statements.