Senate Republicans today filibustered the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For months, the GOP has been insisting that it would not confirm any director for the Bureau until the Bureau’s structure is changed so as to weaken it significantly.
Since the GOP’s ultimate goal is to render the Bureau as toothless as possible, it makes sense for senators to portray the Bureau’s director as some out-of-control bureaucrat taking credit cards away from hard-working families. (This is the same tactic that they used during the debate over the creation of the Bureau.) On CNN today, a clearly fired-up Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) went so far as to call the Bureau’s director an “almighty god,” falsely claiming that the Bureau has no oversight:
We can not give a total czar, that even the President can’t suggest things to or can’t control, running this agency and determining the creditworthiness, the credit situation for people all over the country…You’re going to give a total czar total power, not even reportable to the President, not reportable to the appropriations processes and Congress, not reportable to Congress, total power over the credit of people throughout the country. That is not what our country’s about, we’ve never done that before, and yet that is how broadly this Dodd-Frank bill is…What we’re asking for is not unusual, it certainly isn’t flagrant, it certainly isn’t execessive, it’s having a board of directors that supervises this person so that this person is not an almighty god in bureaucratic dress.
Hatch’s rant would be amusing if it weren’t so wildly off-base. The Consumer Protection Bureau, unlike any of the other federal financial system regulators, can have it’s rules vetoed by a vote of what’s called the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), a panel of composed of the heads of the regulatory agencies along with the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chairman. Literally no other regulator is subject to this kind of check.
Senate Republicans have been raking in millions in donations from Wall Street banks as they’ve continued to block Cordray’s confirmation. In the meantime, the only agency meant explicitly to protect consumers from financial industry excess — and which already has extraordinary restraints placed upon it — isn’t allowed to get off the ground. (And, at the end of the day, doesn’t Hatch know that it’s the Congressional Budget Office that’s actually god on Capitol Hill?)