- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 25, 2017

President Trump named the White House’s top manager to be the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau late Friday, setting up a clash with the panel’s anti-Trump bureaucrats who have named their own person to lead the agency.

Mr. Trump picked Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to fill the CFPB role, while also keeping his OMB job.

He was moving to counter Richard Cordray, the outgoing director with a decidedly anti-Trump bent, who on Friday afternoon announced a new deputy director, Leandra English, then sped up his own retirement to Friday night, which he said made Ms. English the acting director.

The complicated set of moves underscores the stakes in the job of the director of the CFPB, which is the agency set up to police Wall Street in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

Republicans vehemently oppose the scope of the panel’s powers, calling it anti-business, while Democrats cheer the CFPB, saying it needs unprecedented independence so it can constrain businesses that otherwise would escape punishment. A federal court has ruled the agency’s structure unconstitutional, saying it puts too much power in the hands of one unelected bureaucrat.

Now, there are two people with potential claims to be the director when employees return to work Monday.

The White House insisted it has the upper hand, saying the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — the government’s internal legal advice branch — has said the president has the power to name an acting director under the federal Vacancies Act.

“We believe this action is consistent with that long-established practice,” a senior official said Saturday.

Administration officials said they expect Ms. English will fill her role of deputy director and won’t try to usurp the acting director’s role that they said now belongs to Mr. Mulvaney.

Mr. Mulvaney, meanwhile, will continue to lead the OMB at the White House.

The financial industry said the episode exposes deep problems within the CFPB itself. Consumer Bankers Association President Richard Hunt called the controversial and legally suspect board “a dictatorship, period.”

“Conflicting attempts to name a successor at the CFPB creates further chaos for consumers and the banking industry,” Mr. Hunt said, saying the fight should be a wakeup call to Congress and the White House to rewrite the structure of the CFPB to make sure one individual doesn’t have so much power.

Under the Vacancies Act, an acting director can lead the agency until a new permanent head is confirmed by the Senate, or until a 210-day deadline.

Senior administration officials said the president will submit a nominee in coming weeks, but gave no timeline.

Nor could the officials say how Mr. Mulvaney would split his time between two of the government’s most powerful jobs, saying he would have to answer those questions himself.

Ms. English served in the Obama White House’s OMB before becoming chief of staff at the CFPB earlier this year. She’s seen by the banking industry as an acolyte of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the liberal Democrat who has been a big booster of the CFPB — and originally was eyeing the director’s job earlier this decade.

Republicans made clear they would reject Ms. Warren for the post, so President Obama instead named Mr. Cordray, even moving to make what the Supreme Court later deemed in a parallel case to be unconstitutional. The Senate eventually confirmed him anyway.

Ms. Warren would go on to be elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, and on Friday she defended Ms. English and challenged Mr. Mulvaney’s right to the acting director’s job.

“@realDonaldTrump can nominate the next @CFPB Director - but until that nominee is confirmed by the Senate, Leandra English is the Acting Director under the Dodd-Frank Act,” the senator wrote on Twitter.

But conservative advocates said the law supports Mr. Trump.

“President Trump is the only person allowed to name the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” said Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government. “Any attempt to circumvent that authority by Cordray runs counter to the fundamental principles of American governance.”

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