Fed up with Repub­li­can obstruc­tion­ism in the U.S. Sen­ate, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma plans to announce that he is appoint­ing his nom­i­nee for Direc­tor of the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau to the post effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly. Richard Cor­dray, fifty-two, pre­vi­ous­ly served as Ohio’s forty-ninth attor­ney gen­er­al before he was nom­i­nat­ed by the Pres­i­dent last July to run the CFPB, which was cre­at­ed and staffed by Eliz­a­beth War­ren, now a can­di­date for U.S. Sen­ate in Massachusetts.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Sen­ate has not act­ed on Cor­dray’s nom­i­na­tion. It did­n’t even reach the Sen­ate floor until Decem­ber, and it when it did, it was bot­tled up there by the threat of a fil­i­buster. Repub­li­cans have made it plain­ly clear they won’t allow the nom­i­na­tion to come up for a vote, because they know that if they did, Cor­dray would be con­firmed by a major­i­ty of the Sen­ate. And they want the CPFB to remain direc­tor­less. They know that with­out a direc­tor, it can’t exer­cise much of its author­i­ty under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, a law that all Sen­ate Repub­li­cans (with the excep­tion of Scott Brown) vot­ed against.

The White House knows this too, which is why the Pres­i­dent is mak­ing a recess appoint­ment. The admin­is­tra­tion has noth­ing to lose. The appoint­ment at least gives the Bureau a per­ma­nent direc­tor through the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which means it can final­ly flex its mus­cles. If the Pres­i­dent is reelect­ed, he can renom­i­nate Cor­dray and put pres­sure on the Sen­ate to con­firm the nom­i­na­tion. If not, the expi­ra­tion of the appoint­ment in Jan­u­ary of 2013 won’t matter.

The Pres­i­dent is to for­mal­ly announce the appoint­ment at an event in Cleve­land, Ohio (Cor­dray’s home state) in a few hours.

Reac­tion to the deci­sion came swiftly.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Repub­li­cans aren’t pleased at all (John Boehn­er has already called the appoint­ment “an unprece­dent­ed pow­er grab”, ignor­ing the fact that he spoke out in sup­port of recess appoint­ments made by George W. Bush). But con­sumer pro­tec­tion advo­cates cheered the news.

Lisa Don­ner, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Amer­i­cans for Finan­cial Reform. said the coali­tion (com­prised of more than two hun­dred and fifty orga­ni­za­tions) stood ready to help the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau begin ful­fill­ing its mission.

“We com­mend the Pres­i­dent for plac­ing the inter­ests of con­sumers and fam­i­lies first and reject­ing the demands of the CFPB’s oppo­nents, both on and off Capi­tol Hill, that the agency’s inde­pen­dence and pow­er to pro­tect con­sumers be gut­ted in return for allow­ing it to con­tin­ue to exist. AFR will work togeth­er with the Pres­i­dent, the CFPB and oth­ers who want to help rebuild con­fi­dence in our finan­cial reg­u­la­to­ry sys­tem,” she said in a statement.

Ed Mierzwin­s­ki, con­sumer pro­gram direc­tor for the fed­er­a­tion of state PIRGs (pub­lic inter­est research groups) agreed. “We applaud Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for stand­ing up to Wall Street and its back­ers on Capi­tol Hill on behalf of fam­i­lies, seniors, ser­vice­mem­bers, stu­dents and oth­er con­sumers who need pro­tec­tion from unfair finan­cial prac­tices,” he said in a state­ment sent to NPI by WashPIRG.

Eliz­a­beth War­ren’s cam­paign quick­ly cre­at­ed a page where donors and vol­un­teers could send mes­sages of sup­port to Cor­dray as he begins his new job.

Thanks to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s recess appoint­ment, the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau gets its first direc­tor — and its full pow­ers — with Richard Cordray.

For months, deter­mined as ever to pro­tect Wall Street and the big banks instead of you, Repub­li­cans stymied the agency from doing its job by fil­i­bus­ter­ing Cor­dray’s nom­i­na­tion. But they can­not block this appointment.

Help cel­e­brate the end of the Repub­li­can road­block — and tell Richard Cor­dray we stand with him in this impor­tant fight for mid­dle-class families.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion explic­it­ly allows the Pres­i­dent to make recess appoint­ments, but it does not define what con­sti­tutes a recess. Many con­sti­tu­tion­al schol­ars would prob­a­bly agree that Con­gress is in recess both between ses­sions and when it decides to go into an intrases­sion recess, but late­ly, Con­gress has not agreed to go into recess. Instead, the House and the Sen­ate have been hold­ing what are known as pro for­ma ses­sions, which con­sist of the bang­ing of gavels and lit­tle else. (No busi­ness is trans­act­ed dur­ing a pro for­ma ses­sion, which might be more appro­pri­ate­ly termed a phan­tom session).

The deci­sion to appoint Cor­dray sets up a show­down with con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans about the legit­i­ma­cy of pro for­ma ses­sions. The White House will prob­a­bly argue that Con­gress is in a de fac­to recess and that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is with­in his rights to make a recess appoint­ment. They can point out that Con­gress has not actu­al­ly met since the hol­i­days began. Nei­ther the House nor the Sen­ate has achieved a quo­rum, and nei­ther cham­ber has con­duct­ed any business.

The crux of the mat­ter is whether hav­ing a lone rep­re­sen­ta­tive or sen­a­tor bang­ing a gav­el at a podi­um means that Con­gress is not in recess. That ques­tion might end up being lit­i­gat­ed in court.

In the mean­time, there’s lit­tle that Repub­li­cans can do about the appoint­ment oth­er than whine.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “President appoints Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”

  1. Cor­dray as a com­sumer watch­dog seems unap­pro­pri­ate in light of last weeks PD arti­cle about how last year, Cor­droy’s office was in charge of mak­ing sure that com­pa­nies that recieved ODOD (Ohio Depart­ment of Devel­op­ment) grants full­filled the job cre­ation part of their agree­ment and they failed mis­er­ably. His lack of watch­dog skills cost Ohio Tax­pay­ers tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. See the article

    It did­n’t get much press so I imag­ine Oba­ma’s staff did­n’t see this or I can’t imag­ine they would have gone for­ward with Cor­dray. If you are not famil­iar with the arti­cle, here is how it relat­ed to Cor­do­ry and his watch­dog ability.

    Last year, Cor­do­ry’s office was in charge of mak­ing sure com­pa­nies who recieved ODOD rewards ful­filled the job cre­ation require­ments or else the state could claw­back the mon­ey (tax­pay­er dol­lars) they received. Cor­droy report­ed that 90% of com­pa­nies ful­filled their end of the agree­ment. This year is came out that the num­ber is only 52% and the rea­son it was so high in the pre­vi­ous year was that “Cordray’s analy­sis, how­ev­er, was based on vol­un­tary sur­veys that com­pa­nies sub­mit­ted to the attor­ney general’s office, accord­ing to a Lisa Hack­ley, a spokes­woman for DeWine. Only about 25 per­cent of the com­pa­nies respond­ed to the sur­vey, Hack­ley said.”

    Was it that hard to slip one by our new watch­dog and take tens of mil­lions of tax­pay­er dol­lars they did­n’t deserve? How does Mr. Cor­dray find out if the com­pa­nies lived up to their end of the bargain…he sent them a vol­un­tary sur­vey and polite­ly asked them if they cre­at­ed the jobs they promised they would and he did­n’t audit the few respons­es he got. THIS IS A PERSON IN A WATCHDOG POSITION!!!

    My ques­tion is why he would even have to ask the com­pa­ny any­thing? To see if com­pa­nies cre­at­ed the jobs they promised, he could sim­ply look at the tax rolls to see the num­ber of OHIO employ­ees and total ohio pay­roll each com­pa­ny had.

    Do you think this is relavent to the conversation?

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