Finance

Senate panel narrowly approves Trump consumer bureau pick

A Senate panel on Thursday voted along party lines to approve Kathy Kraninger, President Trump's nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

All 13 Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee voted to recommend the confirmation of Kraninger to lead the polarizing financial regulator for a five-year term, while all 12 Democrats opposed her.

"Given her depth and diversity of public sector experience, I have the confidence that she is well prepared to lead the bureau," said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

Kraninger, an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate's slim Republican majority before the end of 2018. Democrats have fiercely opposed her nomination and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has pledged to block it.

Democrats have blasted Kraninger over her lack of direct experience with financial regulation and her connections to the Trump administration's controversial family separation border policy.

Kraninger oversaw policy implementation at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security that  carried out the border separation directive issued by the Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April. She's refused to answer questions about her role in developing the policy or whether she supports it.

"As an American, as a parent, as a human being, I don't know how you can't be horrified by this," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), the committee's ranking Democrat. "But Kraninger hasn't offered a word of criticism about her or her boss's part in this catastrophe."

"Make sure that this person who refused to oppose, acknowledge, or apologize for this disaster does not get a promotion," Brown said.

Republicans, the White House and financial sector advocates have touted Kraninger as a skilled manager with ample experience to right the path of what they consider a rogue and wasteful agency.

"The BCFP has morphed into an unaccountable regulatory agency run by unelected bureaucrats who have very little oversight from Congress," said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.),  using an acronym preferred by Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney.

"I'm confident that she will help us make progress in reforming this agency."

But Democrats insist that Kraninger's high-level role in the Trump administration border separation policy and highly criticized response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico undercut that argument.

"If she was so proud of her actions, why wouldn't she describe them? If she wasn't involved in those issues, why wouldn't she say so?" Warren said.

"She's refusing to describe her role in two very public management failures because she knows it would destroy the case for her nomination."

Kraninger is expected to follow through on Mulvaney's efforts to pull back the bureau's power, cut its spending and ease its oversight of the financial sector.

Mulvaney, who also serves OMB director, has endorsed Kraninger's nomination and has rallied GOP senators behind his budget office deputy. His efforts have helped endear her to Republicans eager to restrain the bureau while alienating her from Democrats committed to protecting it.

"My concern is she's going to carry out the same role that Mick Mulvaney wants her to do, and that to me is no protection for consumers across the country," said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Kraninger has shared little about her plans for the CFPB beyond a general endorsement of Mulvaney's actions

"I don't expect any candidate to believe 100 percent with what I believe in," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), "but I don't remember her answering one question that I asked."

"My concern is that if we confirm Ms. Kraninger, she will do nothing, just as she answered none of my questions in this committee hearing," Tester said. "It will be, in fact, an inactive organization that will do nothing to protect student, military people or seniors."

The committee also approved the nomination of Kimberly Reed to be president of the Export-Import Bank by a 25-0 vote, and the nominations of Elad Roisman to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Michael Bright to be president of the Government National Mortgage Association, Rae Oliver to be inspector general at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Dino Falaschetti to be director of the Office of Financial Research by voice votes.

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