I've always been baffled by Republicans' steadfast demands to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in its cradle. Their chief tactic: repeatedly trying to block President Obama's choice of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray - or anyone else - as its director unless Democrats agree to amend the Dodd-Frank provisions establishing it.
Yesterday, in a Senate Banking Committee exchange captured in this video (below), Sen. Elizabeth Warren took aim at that strange campaign, challenging various claims that the CFPB somehow has sinister powers beyond that of other financial regulators. It's five minutes of video worth watching. Warren, of course, is the former law professor who conceived the idea of a new consumer-protection agency and persuaded Obama to insist on its broad authority and independence.
Warren called Cordray "an open book," and questioned assertions made by the agency's foes, including the 43 Senate Republicans vowing yet again to block anyone from the post. Among their demands: that the single director be replaced by a commission, a form of governance typically more subject to political influence, and that the agency's funding be put under Congress' control - unlike that of other financial regulators.
"I think that the delay in getting him confirmed is bad for consumers, it's bad for small banks, it's bad for credit unions, it's bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market," Warren said. "The American people deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on credit reports."
Obama, you may recall, bypassed the Senate after a similar filibuster in 2011. But with court challenges looming to his recess appointments, he's trying again now that the CFPB has a growing track record as a forceful but measured voice for consumer protection. Among its early achievements, www.ConsumerFinance.gov is now a place where individuals can go to register complaints against a credit-card issuer or a credit reporting agency and expect to get an actual response.
So let's get this straight. We're still struggling through the aftermath of a financial crisis triggered in large part by misguided consumer lending - unrestrained subprime mortgages and loan flipping, "liar loans," and all the rest - that could have been slowed or stopped by better consumer protection. And the Senate GOP wants to undo what so far stands as Dodd-Frank's biggest lasting achievement?