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 MulvaneyWhite House officials work to tamp down controversies after a tumultuous week Sunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision Mulvaney says he thinks Trump knows people thought Doral decision looked 'lousy' 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 TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' 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) TesterBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control 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 CordraySupreme Court agrees to hear challenge to consumer agency On The Money: Tax, loan documents for Trump properties reportedly showed inconsistencies | Tensions flare as Dems hammer Trump consumer chief | Critics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles Tensions flare as Democrats urge consumer bureau to boost penalties 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 McConnellTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Fox's Wallace says 'well-connected' Republican told him there's a 20 percent chance GOP will vote for impeachment White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE (R-Ky.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank 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 WarnerZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Senate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' US ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out 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 RoundsAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (R-S.D.) said Mulvaney spoke “very highly” of his potential successor.

Fellow GOP Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell signaling Trump trial to be quick, if it happens Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Furor over White House readout of Ukraine call | Dems seize on memo in impeachment push | Senate votes to end Trump emergency | Congress gets briefing on Iran Senate again votes to end Trump emergency declaration on border wall 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 WarrenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Warren, Yang fight over automation divides experts Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' 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 McCainCummings to lie in state at the Capitol Elizabeth Warren should concern Donald Trump 'bigly' Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show 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 HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand 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.