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Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy

Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy
© Anna Moneymaker

President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday refused to discuss her involvement in the administration’s family-separation policy during her Senate confirmation hearing.

Kathleen Kraninger told the Senate Banking Committee that she played “no role in setting” the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, but would not discuss how she influenced its rollout.

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“I don’t think it’s appropriate, frankly, or fair or right for me to articulate the advice that I have given, or to characterize the discussion that others may have had or brought to the table,” Kraninger said during  Thursday's confirmation hearing.

Kraninger, an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), oversees budgeting and policy implementation at seven federal departments, including the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

She is widely supported by Senate Republicans, who believe she'll continue efforts by CFPB Acting Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOMB nominee gets hearing on Feb. 9 Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief MORE to roll back the agency's powers. Mulvaney, who is also OMB director, has rallied GOP senators to back Kraninger to help clear her confirmation path.

But Democrats on the Banking Committee have demanded answers from Kraninger regarding her possible involvement in the Trump administration’s immigration policy and its response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. On Thursday, she refused to describe her role in either matter.

Kraninger insisted that it wasn't appropriate for her to reveal her recommendations or internal administration discussions, a response that enraged some Democrats.

“It is fundamentally immoral and you were part of it, Ms. Kraninger," said Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE (D-Mass.). "It is a moral stain that will follow you for the rest of your life. And if the Senate votes to give a big promotion to you after this, then it will be a stain on the senators who do so.”

Few if any Democrats are expected to support Kraninger, and Warren has vowed to block her confirmation. All 12 Democrats on the panel asked Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoBiden nominee previews post-Trump trade agenda Becerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation MORE (R-Idaho) on Tuesday to delay Kraninger’s hearing until receiving what they considered sufficient information from her and documents related to her role.

Crapo declined to delay the hearing, saying the Democratic demands weren’t relevant to Kraninger’s nomination to lead the CFPB, which oversees and regulates elements of the financial sector.

“These requests are designed to go after certain extraneous administration policies that the requesters do not like, and go far beyond the practice of this committee’s document production,” Crapo said. “I would not expect this administration or any administration to release documents related to an ongoing deliberative process.”

Kraninger has no direct experience in crafting or enforcing financial regulations, but the White House and GOP senators have pitched her as a skilled manager and steady hand to lead the CFPB. 

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken launches Senate bid MORE (D-Ohio), the panel’s top Democrat, said that understanding Kraninger’s role in setting immigration policy and the administration's Puerto Rico response are crucial to gauging her credentials.

“Management is supposed to be Ms. Kraninger’s one qualification,” Brown said. “It is hard to see how that is enough, especially given the nominee’s refusal to provide information requested by committee members.”

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration Biden pushes expanded pathways to citizenship as immigration bill lands in Congress MORE (D-N.J.), who pressed Kraninger on Puerto Rico, said she'd couldn't be trusted to protect consumers as CFPB chief because she couldn't provide crucial aide to American citizens devastated by last year's hurricane.

“If you couldn’t do it for the people of Puerto Rico, I don’t know how you could do it for anyone else," Menendez said.

If Kraninger is confirmed, she'd wield broad authority to regulate the financial sector and crack down on banks and lenders accused of defrauding or abusing consumers. She vowed to lead the CFPB with accountability and transparency, coordinate with state officials and safeguard consumer data.

Republicans praised Kraninger for vowing to ease enforcement actions on firms that claimed to be unaware they were violating the law. They also used their time to rail against the CFPB's history of aggressive regulation and praise Mulvaney for rolling it back.

Even so, Kraninger revealed little when Democrats asked about her opinions of controversial CFPB rules and practices and her plans for the bureau. 

 

Some moderate Democrats on the panel who previously said they'd keep an open mind on Kraninger also panned her evasiveness.

"You can answer the questions," said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats hesitant to raise taxes amid pandemic Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Democrats in standoff over minimum wage MORE (D-Mont.) “You’re going to be leading this agency. Your recommendations are going to count for something.”

Updated at 4:49 p.m.