Unlike previous Congressional hearings, including one in which Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) famously called Elizabeth Warren “a liar”; last week’s Senate Banking Committee Hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray to direct the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, proved a much calmer affair. With the departure of Elizabeth Warren, who recently announced her candidacy for Senate, a more rational dialogue was able to occur regarding the new Bureau and its powers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created last year through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. And since its formation has been the subject of incredible partisan debate. Over the past year, Elizabeth Warren served as the Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, and was responsible for setting up the Agency, from scratch. Also credited with the idea for the CFPB, many were unable to separate Warren from the issues they took with the Agency’s structure and powers. The CFPB was officially launched in July 2011, and although having certain freedoms to move forward without the consent of Congress, many of the Bureau’s legislated powers will remain inactive until a Senate confirmed director is in place.
Republicans in the hearing did not take much issue with Cordray, but rather the structure of the agency. In fact, many viewers were almost surprised at what could be interpreted as vague support for Cordray and his background throughout the hearing. Since its inception, Republicans have pushed for a 5 member panel to replace a single director, claiming the CFPB lacks the proper oversights of a government agency. It appears the air has been somewhat cleared since the parting of Elizabeth Warren from the Bureau. However, it is almost impossible to think of a scenario in which the CFPB is able to become a legitimate agency without legislative fixes that are currently being pushed by Republicans. With “consumer protection” meaning many different things depending on one’s vantage point, it is hard to imagine a single person being permitted to determine what is harmful to consumers and the economy, and which should sacrifice for the sake of the other.