Earlier today, 53 percent of the Senate voted to move forward with Richard Cordray’s nomination to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — depriving him of the supermajority he needs in order to be confirmed. One of the senators joining this filibuster, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), was uncharacteristically candid about why he helped build this wall of obstruction — he simply wants to sabotage the agency:
I have met Mr. Cordray, and my decision to oppose his confirmation by the Senate has nothing to do with his qualifications. Rather, I feel it is my duty to oppose his confirmation as part of my opposition to the creation of CFPB itself. [...] Confirming any director for this bureau would be tantamount to agreeing that we need a uniquely powerful super-agency that is not even designed to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Until the CFPB is reformed, I will not support it in any way.
Simply put, this is nothing less than a direct assault on the rule of law. The CFPB was created by an Act of Congress and can only be repealed or modified by an Act of Congress. By his own admission, Lee’s filibuster is an attempt to make an end run around the Constitution’s legitimate lawmaking process.
But, of course, this filibuster is also just one more example of the Tea Party senator’s nihilistic approach to governance. Lee believes that federal child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. He not only sponsored a radical constitutional amendment that would force the United States to adopt Tea Party fiscal policy forever, he then openly admitted that he was using last summer’s debt ceiling crisis to extort the rest of the Congress into passing his amendment.
Fortunately, President Obama does not need to allow Lee’s nihilism to shut down an essential check on Wall Street’s excesses. When the Senate adjourns for the year, Obama should immediately invoke the Roosevelt Precedent and recess appoint Cordary.