Cordray Answers Lawmakers at Nomination Hearing

Cordray Answers Lawmakers at Nomination Hearing

03/12/2013 BY: TORY BARRINGER

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), sat once again on Tuesday in front of the Senate Banking Committee, this time to present his case to continue leading the consumer agency.

While some had expected a contentious round of questioning from Republicans critical of CFPB in its current form, the proceedings were generally cordial. However, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) did take the opportunity to voice his concerns about the agency’s structure and about Cordray’s controversial recess appointment, which was called into question earlier this year after an appeals court ruled against similar appointments.

“With regard to the president’s recess appointment to the CFPB last year, my opinion has not changed,” Crapo noted. “I continue to believe that the recess appointment was unconstitutional.”

Crapo, along with several other committee Republicans, also pressed Cordray on his willingness to work with the Senate to bring about more transparency and accountability for the bureau. (Cordray agreed he would be willing to discuss ideas, though he argued that he already attends several hearings yearly to keep Congress apprised of CFPB’s activities.)

For their part, several Democrats on the committee spoke out against Republican opposition to Cordray’s nomination, which they believe stems from opposition to the agency rather than its leader. Many noted that the idea behind CFPB received bipartisan support.

“If that is a new standard—that a majority will can now be subverted by stopping a nominee in order to subvert the agency—then that’s a dangerous slope,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Unsurprisingly, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)—whose efforts as a special advisor helped create the agency—offered no questions for the CFPB director, remarking only that she looks forward to supporting his nomination. That’s not to say she didn’t have other questions, however.

“What I want to know is why since the 1800s have there been agencies all over Washington with a single director … but unlike the consumer agency, no one in the U.S. Senate has held off confirmation of their directors demanding that the agency be redesigned?” the freshman senator asked. “From the way I see how other agencies are treated, I see nothing here but a filibuster against Director Cordray as an attempt to weaken the consumer agency.”

Also present at the hearing was Mary Jo White, former U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District and nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC). Prompted by Menendez’s reference to remarks made by Attorney General Eric Holder, White offered her view of the SEC and of the idea that an institution could be “too big to jail.”

“Assuming you found wrongdoing, I think you proceed quite vigorously against, frankly, anyone that find evidence of wrongdoing on. At the SEC … those collateral consequences are not taken into account before charging decisions are made. So at the SEC, there is no institution too big to charge.”

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