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Senate panel advances Biden's picks to lead SEC, consumer bureau

Senate panel advances Biden's picks to lead SEC, consumer bureau
© Getty Images/Greg Nash

The Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday advanced President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE’s picks to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to the full Senate for confirmation votes.

The panel voted 14-10 in favor of Gary GenslerGary GenslerPutting the SEC cops back on the Wall Street beat On The Money: US economy roars in first three months of 2021 | Jobless claims drop again | White House: No tax hikes for couples making less than 9K SEC enforcement chief resigns just days after taking job MORE’s confirmation to fill a vacant spot on the SEC and become its chairman, with all 12 Democrats and Republican Sens. Mike RoundsMike RoundsSenate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (S.D.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisTrump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan GOP frustration with Liz Cheney 'at a boiling point' Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE (Wyo.) supporting his nomination.

Senators were split 12-12 along party lines on Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit ChopraRohit ChopraWarren presses Yellen to ramp up BlackRock oversight FTC eyes new approach to pharmaceutical mergers Senate panel advances Biden's picks to lead SEC, consumer bureau MORE’s nomination to serve as CFPB director.

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Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-N.Y.) is allowed to tee up a vote on Chopra’s confirmation under a bipartisan agreement struck after Democrats flipped Georgia’s two Senate seats and created a 50-50 split.

Gensler, the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Chopra are both expected to be confirmed in the Senate, where Vice President Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote on the latter's nomination if no Republican supports him.

Democrats have praised both of Biden's picks for years of work toward bolstering consumer protections and calling for greater penalties against financial firms that mistreat or abuse customers. 

"Both nominees showed a deep knowledge of both the markets and the reality of the economy most families live in and are committed to creating an economy that works for all workers," said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-Ohio), chairman of the Banking panel and a fierce critic of financial industry.

Neither Gensler nor Chopra faced questions about their credentials during their confirmation hearing last week, but were still unable to gain substantial Republican support over deep ideological differences.

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Several Republicans criticized Gensler's calls for more exhaustive disclosures about the climate-related risks publicly traded companies face, their political spending, and the diversity of their leadership.

"There's no doubt that Mr. Gensler knows a lot about the securities markets," said Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), the panel's staunchly conservative ranking Republican.

"But based on his record, I'm concerned that he will stray from this sec tradition of bipartisanship by using the agency's regulatory powers to advance a liberal social agenda on issues such as climate change political spending and racial inequality."

Lummis, a Bitcoin advocate, said that while she too was concerned about Gensler's climate agenda, she supports his confirmation for his open-mindedness to cryptocurrencies and their role in financial innovation.

Republicans, however, universally opposed Chopra over his unapologetic commitment to maximizing the power he'd wield over the financial sector as CFPB director. A former top CFPB official, Chopra has consistently criticized regulators from both parties for what he considers inadequate punishment for firms that violate consumer protection laws.

"I'm deeply concerned that he'd return the CFPB to the hyperactive, sometimes law-breaking, anti-business, unaccountable agency it was under the Obama administration," Toomey said.

Updated at 2:56 p.m.