In a procedural vote, Senate Democrats on Thursday failed to get the necessary votes to move forward the nomination of Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), effectively blocking his appointment in the chamber. Republican leaders cited as their main arguments that the director will wield too much power and that the Board, as it’s currently set up, is insufficiently accountable to Congress.
The cloture vote to cut off a Republican filibuster on the nomination failed to get the required 60 votes; the final tally was 53-45. Cordray supporters are now calling on President Obama to designate Cordray to head the agency through a recess appointment.
Politico reported that in a post-vote press conference, Obama said “I will not take any options off the table when it comes to getting Richard Cordray in as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bottom line is we’re going to look at all of our options. My hope and expectation is Republicans who blocked this nomination will come to their senses.”
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, wrote an op-ed in Thursday’s USA Today stating that the Senate will confirm the first leader of the CFPB “as soon as President Obama agrees to make it accountable to the American people.”
The CFPB, Shelby wrote, “was designed to be unaccountable to Congress. Its vast powers are vested in a single director who cannot be dismissed by the president for terrible policy decisions. During his five-year term, the director can determine not only how the bureau spends its more than a half-billion-dollar budget, but also how it regulates much of the American economy.”
Wrote Shelby: “Because the director will decide whether and how consumers can obtain credit, the economic lives of nearly every American will be touched by this new federal bureaucracy. A bureaucracy with that kind of power must be accountable to the American people.”
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-SD, released a statement Thursday in which he said he was “disappointed that Senate Republicans continue to hold strong consumer protections hostage. By voting against Mr. Cordray’s nomination, Senate Republicans demonstrated that they care more about Wall Street than helping American consumers.”
American families, Johnson continued, “paid a steep price for the financial crisis, battered by layoffs and foreclosures. Congress created the CFPB to protect consumers and clean up the marketplace, but it needs a director. Richard Cordray has proven himself capable for the job, and there is no legitimate reason to block his confirmation.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement that Republicans’ vote “was not a vote against Cordray” but a vote “against Main Street just to protect Wall Street. Republicans blocked an eminently qualified nominee to lead an agency charged with protecting working families from financial fraud and unfair practices.”