- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a defiant display of executive power, President Obama on Wednesday will buck GOP opposition and name Richard Cordray as the nation’s chief consumer watchdog, even though the Senate contends the move is inappropriate, senior administration officials told the Associated Press.

With a director in place, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be able to start overseeing the mortgage companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial companies often blamed for practices that helped tank the economy.

Mr. Obama‘s decision to make a recess appointment is certain to cause an uproar from Capitol Hill to Wall Street. He essentially is declaring the Senate’s short off-and-on legislative sessions a sham intended to block his appointments.

The White House is expecting considerable criticism and perhaps a court challenge, but it said Mr. Obama was left with little choice to get the consumer agency fully running after months of stalemate.

Acting right after Tuesday’s GOP presidential caucuses in Iowa, Mr. Obama is seeking to grab attention and show voters that he will advocate for the middle class no matter what the opposition. It is his most bare-knuckle initiative so far in his campaign of taking action without waiting for Congress.

Mr. Obama planned to announce his decision later Wednesday during an economic event in Mr. Cordray’s home state of Ohio, with Mr. Cordray along with him.

Mr. Cordray would take over the job later in the week and stand to serve for at least the next two years, covering the length of the Senate’s session.

Administration officials spoke to the AP about the news on condition of anonymity because Mr. Obama had not announced the appointment.

Republicans in the Senate have blocked Mr. Cordray. Mr. Obama planned to say that every day Mr. Cordray waited for confirmation, millions of Americans remained unprotected from dishonest financial practices, according to prepared remarks obtained by the AP.

“That’s inexcusable,” Mr. Obama says in the remarks. “And I refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer. I’ve said before that I will continue to look for every opportunity to work with Congress to move this country forward. But when Congress refuses to act in a way that hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them.”

More than a standoff over one significant appointment, the fight speaks to the heart of presidential campaign under way. Presiding over a troubled but improving economy, Mr. Obama must persuade a weary middle class that he is their champion, all while fending off fire from Republicans challengers and lawmakers.

To get Mr. Cordray into the job, Mr. Obama essentially is dictating to the Senate what constitutes a legitimate legislative session.

Mr. Obama has constitutional power to make appointments during a congressional recess.

Expressly to keep that from happening, Republicans in the Senate have had the Senate running in “pro forma” sessions, meaning open for business in name with no actual business planned. Democrats started the practice when George W. Bush was president to halt him from making recess appointments.

The Senate held such a session on Tuesday and planned another one on Friday. Republicans contend Mr. Obama cannot make a recess appointment during a break of less than three days, based on years of practice.

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