Mulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation

Mulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation
© Greg Nash

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) acting Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump’s state of emergency declaration imperils defense budget Mulvaney told Trump officials their 'highest priority' will be deregulation: Axios High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks MORE is going to bat for his potential successor, and in doing so he's poised to extend his influence at the watchdog agency.

Mulvaney, who doubles as head of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has emerged as a key proponent of Kathy Kraninger, President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE’s pick to be the CFPB’s full-time director, despite his previous reluctance to influence the selection process.

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Trump’s decision to nominate Kraninger, an associate director at the OMB, surprised lawmakers and industry advocates who were expecting the president to go with a bigger-name nominee.

As a result, Mulvaney has sought to quell concerns about Kraninger’s credentials to lead the 7-year-old agency. He’s called key Republican senators this week to tout Kraninger’s experience, and he issued a glowing statement in support of her Senate confirmation.

Congressional Republicans have praised Mulvaney's efforts to rein in the CFPB’s regulatory actions and are expected to support Kraninger, who they see as building on Mulvaney’s legacy. That, in turn, has raised concerns among Democratic lawmakers and other White House critics who say her nomination is an attempt to extend Mulvaney’s influence over the CFPB.

Liberals are broadly opposed to Kraninger’s nomination, but the question of how much she’d follow in Mulvaney’s footsteps is the primary concern among moderate Democrats who’ve crossed party lines to support other Trump nominees.

“I don't think Mulvaney can do both jobs, so hopefully this person isn't just a figurehead,” Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (D-Mont.) told The Hill on Tuesday. "If it’s just a figurehead, I've got some major concerns.”

If confirmed, Kraninger would wield substantial power and independence to police the financial services industry over a five-year term. The bureau’s funding mechanism is separate from the annual appropriations process that applies to most federal agencies, giving the director unique control over the agency’s budget.

It’s still unclear whether the president can legally fire the bureau’s chief without cause, meaning Kraninger could lead the CFPB well into the next president’s tenure, even if there are significant policy disagreements between the two.

Mulvaney has drawn scorn from Democrats for easing the CFPB’s oversight of the financial services industry, particularly the delaying of rules issued by 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 and his efforts to reduce the independent agency's budget and staff.

Kraninger has more than a decade of experience with budgets for federal agencies, including those within the Treasury, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security departments. Her role at OMB covers seven Cabinet departments and 30 agencies, including all federal financial regulators, according to the White House.

She’s been endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingThe next two years of federal housing policy could be positive under Mark Calabria Why Ocasio-Cortez should make flood insurance reform a priority Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (R-Texas), who both say she’s well equipped to reform what they consider an unruly and unaccountable regulator.

But Kraninger, a former Senate Appropriations Committee staffer and Department of Homeland Security official, has little hands-on experience with crafting or enforcing financial rules. Her views on the CFPB’s operations and policies are also largely unknown, spurring questions about her qualifications for the job.

"I don't know much about her, but I'm concerned if she was Mick Mulvaney's choice,” said Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (D-Va.), a supporter of the Dodd-Frank rollback legislation that Trump signed into law last month.

Mulvaney has been one of Kraninger’s biggest advocates, playing an unexpectedly prominent role in selling Republican senators on her nomination.

The acting chief has said for months that he doesn’t want to cast a shadow over the confirmation process of his successor.

“I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the discussion for whoever the White House nominates,” Mulvaney said at a banking industry conference in April. He added that his influence “runs the risk of the hearing being as much about me as about” the nominee.

Mulvaney also told reporters as recently as last week that he had avoided internal conversations about who Trump would pick.

But Mulvaney has shifted gears since Kraninger’s nomination, which was made official Monday. The following day he called her “the ultimate public servant” and praised her “vigorous independence, sharp-as-a-tack intelligence, and simple, old-fashioned, Midwestern humility.”

“I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to make it more accountable, effective, and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship,” Mulvaney said.

Several GOP members of the Senate Banking Committee, which is expected to hold a confirmation hearing for Kraninger later this year, said Mulvaney has reached out to them to discuss Kraninger’s nomination.

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans MORE (R-S.D.) said Mulvaney spoke “very highly” of his potential successor.

Fellow GOP Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Kan.), David Perdue (Ga.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) — all members of the Banking Committee — told The Hill that Mulvaney called them to talk about Kraninger’s nomination.

"Mulvaney is very high on the nomination, and that carries a lot weight with me,” Kennedy said.

Under federal law, Mulvaney is allowed to remain as acting head of the CFPB for as long as it takes to confirm his successor, giving him more time to transform the agency.

Kraninger will likely face a lengthy confirmation process as Congress rushes to finish a slew of must-pass bills before the November midterm elections. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren set to announce plan for universal child care: reports Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Booker seeks dialogue about race as he kicks off 2020 campaign MORE (D-Mass.), who’s considered the CFPB’s architect, said she would place a hold on Kraninger’s nomination, further slowing down the process.

Senate Republicans have a slim majority and cannot afford a single defection to confirm Kraninger while Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid MORE (R-Ariz.) receives treatment for a brain tumor at home in Arizona, assuming both sides dig in on their opposition or support.

But Kraninger could earn the backing of some moderate Democrats who are facing reelection this year in states that Trump won in 2016.

Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.) — two of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats — told The Hill on Tuesday that they had just started to review Kraninger’s nomination and had not come to a decision yet.