Mulvaney urges Congress to strip agency's powers

Mulvaney urges Congress to strip agency's powers
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The acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) asked a House committee Wednesday to rein in the agency’s power to police the financial sector.

Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says  Mulvaney: Trump faces difficulty if 2020 election becomes 'referendum' on him MORE, who is also the White House budget director, urged the House Financial Services Committee to impose several new restrictions on the bureau. He said lawmakers need to take control of the agency’s funding, make his successors fireable at will by the president and install an inspector general, among other things.

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"It's not accountable to you. It's not accountable to the public. It's not accountable to anybody but itself," Mulvaney said of the CFPB, telling lawmakers to “take back authority as the legislature of the country.”

Republicans showered praise on Mulvaney’s efforts to pull back the CFPB, an agency they’ve long accused of violating the law and abusing its powers to wage a crusade against financial institutions. 

“It is sheer irony and great comic relief to see the wailing and gnashing of teeth of many of my Democratic colleagues who now denounce the unaccountable nature of the CFPB, but only because now a Republican is in control,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas). 

“I ask, ‘Where have you been?’ ”

Democrats who long resisted GOP efforts to change the CFPB ripped Mulvaney for his efforts to ease off its historically aggressive enforcement. Some of them even refused to recognize him as the bureau’s acting chief.

“Mr. Mulvaney is not the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” said Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersSupreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress MORE (Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. “He was illegally appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE.”

Even so, Waters said that Democrats needed to press Mulvaney on the “impactful and indeed harmful decisions” he has made in his nearly five months leading the agency.

Trump appointed Mulvaney as acting CFPB chief in November following the resignation of Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayConsumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions Supreme Court ruling could unleash new legal challenges to consumer bureau Supreme Court rules consumer bureau director can be fired at will MORE (D), the bureau’s first director. Cordray had sought to choose his temporary heir by elevating Leandra English, then his chief of staff, to the deputy director position. 

A federal judge ruled in November that Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney superseded English’s claim to the job as the CFPB's deputy chief. That decision gave Mulvaney free reign to transform the agency he had once sought to eliminate as a member of Congress.

Mulvaney’s major actions include delaying a controversial rule on short-term, high-interest loans, restructuring the bureau’s office for policing lending discrimination and starting a sweeping review of the CFPB’s operations. The goal, he said, is to end what he considers the bureau’s overzealous and harmful history of aggressive fines and lawsuits.

“Regulation by enforcement is done,” Mulvaney said. “Financial services providers should be allowed to know what the law is before being accused of breaking it.” 

Republicans on the panel joined Mulvaney, a former member of the committee, in denouncing the CFPB’s broad power and independence. 

“You are thankfully both a terrible bureaucrat but a great leader,” said Rep. Blaine LuetkemeyerWilliam (Blaine) Blaine LuetkemeyerScalise blasts Democrats for calling on certain companies to return PPP loans Scalise targets China, WHO response from coronavirus oversight perch McCarthy unveils new GOP-led China task force MORE (R-Mo.).

Mulvaney stressed his commitment to doing nothing beyond enforcing consumer protection laws and fulfilling his obligations as CFPB director. He denied Democratic charges that he is seeking to destroy the bureau from within. He cited as proof his continuation of the 25 lawsuits Cordray filed against lenders accused of fraud or abuse and the more than 100 investigations being conducted by the bureau. 

Other Democrats pressed Mulvaney for signs that he’s abused his position to benefit special interests or crossed ethical lines meant to separate his work at the CFPB and as Trump’s budget director.

“We’re still going after bad actors,” Mulvaney said. “We’re doing it differently than other folks might do it, because elections have consequences.”

Democrats said the fact that Mulvaney had not initiated any of his own actions against banks was proof of his unfitness for the job.

“The clear implication is that the people who were enforcing before are not enforcing anymore,” said Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchThe Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary House GOP lawmakers defy new mask requirement MORE (D-Mass.). “What the heck are they doing now?”

Mulvaney will appear before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Pharma pricing is a problem, but antitrust isn't the (only) solution The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations MORE (D-Mass.), the architect of the CFPB who has emerged as the most vocal critic of Mulvaney, will have a chance to question Mulvaney at the hearing.