- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2011

President Obama isn’t backing down after Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked his nominee from becoming the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“I just want to send a message to the Senate: We are not giving up on this,” said Mr. Obama, lashing out against Republicans at a press conference shortly after the vote. “We’re going to keep on going at it. We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected by unscrupulous financial operators. And we’re going to keep on pushing on this issue.”

Moments earlier, the Senate voted 53-45 in favor of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray becoming the banking watchdog agency’s first leader, but 60 votes were needed to end the filibuster.

Only one GOP lawmaker - Sen. Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts - voted with Democrats to approve Mr. Cordray. Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine voted present, while Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, was not present.

The majority of Senate Republicans agree Mr. Cordray is a good fit for the job, but don’t like the idea of appointing one czar to run the independent agency. They fear it’s too much power for a single person.

“We just think that nobody should be above oversight - including the overseers,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said this week.

Republican leaders vowed not to support any nominee to head the CFPB until its structure is changed to allow for more transparency and accountability to Congress. They want the independent agency to be controlled by a bipartisan board of directors.

“I will oppose the confirmation of any director for the bureau until its structure is changed, because the director would be a czar responsible for regulating millions of everyday financial transactions and would effectively answer to no one,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

They also want the agency to be subject to the appropriations committees in the House and Senate.

But Democrats are outraged that Republicans would block a candidate that they’ve acknowledged is qualified. They point out that the agency can’t use key powers - such as regulating non-bank financial institutions and payday lenders - without a confirmed director.
“For the first time in Senate history, Republicans are poised to block a qualified nominee solely because they don’t like the federal agency he will lead,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said this week.

The White House and Senate Democrats aren’t giving into those Republican demands.

“There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated, and should not be confirmed by the Senate and should not be doing his job right away in order to carry out his mandate and his mission,” Mr. Obama said.

The president also indicated he would consider a recess appointment for Mr. Cordray.

“I will not take any options off the table when it comes to getting Richard Cordray in as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” the president said. “The bottom line is, we’re going to look at all of our options. My hope and expectation is Republicans who blocked this nomination will come to their senses.”