GOP Senator Wants Consumer Protection Director To Voluntarily Weaken His Own Agency

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

43 Republican Senators last week signed a letter saying that they would block any nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — regardless of the nominee’s qualifications — unless the agency is weakened and made subservient to other bank regulators. As economist Paul Krugman put it, “it’s an open attempt to use raw obstructionism to overturn the law.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) declined to sign that letter, but he is attempting to weaken the Bureau nevertheless. In a separate letter to CFPB director Richard Cordray, Portman laid out his belief that Cordray should embrace the weakening of his own agency:

“As a nominee to lead an independent agency, you have an opportunity to stake out a reasonable position on these proposals independent of the White House,” [Portman] wrote in a letter sent to Cordray Friday. “Now is the time to exercise that independence and lend your support to these commonsense reforms to make the Bureau more effective and accountable to the American people, so that the Senate can find a path forward on your nomination.” […]

In particular, Portman called on Cordray to come out in favor of bringing the CFPB’s budget under the control of congressional appropriators, and actually replacing the director position with that of a bipartisan commission. The Ohio senator told the former Ohio attorney general that the bureau is in need of “basic accountability reforms” to bring its “unaccountable structure” under control.

In order to ensure its effectiveness, the CFPB needs an independent director and an independent stream of funding. Otherwise, it will share the fate of other bank regulators, which are weakened by partisan commission packing and lack of funds. House Republicans, for instance, have managed to undermine the Dodd-Frank financial reform law by denying regulatory agencies the funds to implement it.

The GOP has made it clear that obstructing any nominee for any reason is a strategy that is on the table. Portman would prefer that Cordray accede to that reality by weakening his own position voluntarily.