Senate confirms Kraninger to lead consumer bureau in partisan vote

Anna Moneymaker

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Kathy Kraninger to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), granting her a five-year term to lead the polarizing watchdog agency.

Senators voted 50 to 49 along party lines to approve the nomination of Kraninger, an associate director at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The Senate ended debate on Kraninger’s nomination last week by the same 50-49 margin.

As CFPB director, Kraninger will wield immense power and influence over U.S. banks, lenders and credit card companies. The agency’s chief has sole control of the CFPB’s budget and can unilaterally decide the bureau’s enforcement of fair lending and consumer protection laws.

{mosads}Kraninger’s confirmation process reflected the fierce partisan divide over the CFPB, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and opened in 2011. Republicans have sought to curb the agency’s power, while Democrats have tried to defend its broad power to crack down on predatory lending and other abusive behaviors.

Kraninger is seen as close to White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, who’s drastically curtailed the CFPB’s oversight powers as its acting director since November 2017. Trump nominated Kraninger in June to succeed Mulvaney, who quickly rallied GOP senators in support of her confirmation.

Senate Democrats have seized on Kraninger’s ties to Mulvaney and her lack of expertise in financial rules in their unanimous opposition to her nomination. Democrats across the political spectrum have blasted Kraninger as an unqualified crony determined to derail the consumer watchdog.

Republicans, meanwhile, have touted Kraninger’s budgeting experience in senior roles at the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Department Homeland Security and the Senate Appropriations Committee. They say she’s the ideal candidate to curb the CFPB’s spending, which Republicans call unaccountable and excessive.

Kraninger has no apparent experience with financial regulation and has revealed little about her planned agenda at the agency other than general pledges of accountability and fiscal prudence.

She’s also shed little insight into her policy platform beyond saying in August that she “cannot identify any actions that [Mulvaney] has taken with which I disagree.”

Mulvaney has slashed the CFPB’s budget, loosened its oversight of the financial services industry and significantly reduced the frequency and size of penalties issued by the agency.

Advocates for banks and lenders regulated by the CFPB who supported Mulvaney’s rollbacks praised Kraninger’s confirmation and urged her to wield her power carefully.

Richard Hunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, said Kraninger will have “the final say over virtually every financial institution in the country as well as almost every financial decision Americans make.”

“We look forward to working with Ms. Kraninger on common-sense regulations that protect consumers while also allowing our well-regulated banking system to serve families and small businesses,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Liberal groups and advocates for stricter financial rules, once aligned with the CFPB under Democratic leadership, blasted Kraninger’s confirmation as a devastating blow for financially vulnerable Americans.

“Kraninger has no track record at all of consumer protection, or of standing up for vulnerable people,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform. “Senators who voted for Kraninger have voted to expose American families to greater financial insecurity and abuse at the hands of Wall Street.”

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