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Groundhog Day for Republicans Blocking Consumer Protection Nominee

February 2, 2013

On this Groundhog Day 2013, the legendary Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair and predicted four more years of douchebaggery from Congressional Republicans. Before he even had a chance to see his own shadow, Phil stumbled across a letter from 43 GOP Senators to President Obama insisting they will block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless their demands to weaken the agency are met. As it turns out, that's the same unprecedented extortion the GOP first tried to perpetrate three years ago.
As you may recall, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank package of Wall Street reforms into law in July 2010. But Republicans in Congress, almost all of whom voted against it, took the shocking step of refusing to confirm any appointee to head the new CFPB created by the legislation. When now Senator Elizabeth Warren was being discussed as a possible choice to lead the bureau, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that none shall pass. As the Washington Post reported in 2011:

An aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that the lawmaker stands by his vow to block any candidate. Late last month, McConnell led 44 senators in a letter to the White House calling for structural changes to the bureau. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has accused GOP opponents of discriminating against Warren because she is female, but McConnell's complaints are much broader.
"It's not sexist. It's not Elizabeth Warren-specific," McConnell spokesman Donald Stewart said. "It's any nominee."

That intransigence led to the recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. (That recess appointment was challenged in court by Senate Republicans.) Despite the praise Cordray has received from both consumer watchdogs and the financial industry, McConnell is once again promising to block his--or anyone else's nomination--to an agency created by Congress. As ThinkProgress explained on Saturday:

In a letter sent to President Obama on Friday, 43 Republican senators committed to refusing approval of any nominee to head the consumer watchdog until the bureau underwent significant reform. Lawmakers signing on to the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.
"The CFPB as created by the deeply flawed Dodd-Frank Act is one of the least accountable in Washington," said McConnell. "Today's letter reaffirms a commitment by 43 Senators to fix the poorly thought structure of this agency that has unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions -- but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability." [...]
In particular, Republicans want to see the top of the bureau changed so it is run by a bipartisan, five-member commission, as opposed to a lone director.
They also want to see the bureau's funding fall under the control of congressional appropriators -- it currently is funded via a revenue stream directly from the Federal Reserve.

McConnell's isn't just a transparently cynical attempt to gut the consumer protection bureau. The recurring episode makes a mockery of the supposed filibuster reform McConnell agreed to only days ago.
It's no wonder Punxsutawney Phil quickly scrambled back into his nest. Like most everyone else, he's tired of watching Republicans cast a dark shadow over government in the United States.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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