Senate Republicans last week blocked Richard Cordray, the President's nominee to head the historic, first ever consumer financial watchdog agency established in the most significant regulatory reform of Wall Street since the Great Depression. The Senate failed to overcome the Republican filibuster, although 53 senators voted in favor of the president's nominee for the top consumer cop. In the United States Senate, a 53-yes 45-no vote means that the 'no' side wins.
President Obama is not backing off. He is not going to take 'no' for an answer, especially a tyranny-of-the-minority 'no' in which a majority of the Senate actually voted 'yes:'
Every day that the country must wait for a director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau "is another day that dishonest businesses can target and take advantage of students, seniors and service members," Mr. Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.As the President has said, the law is what it is. The Republicans, if they want to change it, are free to introduce a bill and take it through the usual legislative grind. The constant hostage taking by the Republicans is now coming full circle. The President is right to insist. Without a head, the agency cannot exercise its powers fully. It can regulate large financial institutions, but cannot regulate nonbank institutions (you know, your average everyday payday loan sharks, for example). The Republicans want to handicap the agency right now without a director so that they can force the President and the Democrats to kneecap consumer financial protection later. But the President has vowed to veto any such effort.
"So I refuse to take 'no' for an answer. Financial institutions have plenty of high-powered lawyers and lobbyists looking out for them. It's time consumers had someone on their side."
Apparently, GOP blowhards don't like the fact that the President is insisting on a popular part of a popular reform and demanding that the Senate vote, up or down, on the President's nominee, Richard Cordray. As mentioned before, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is calling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) a Stalinist plot to keep the boots on the necks of the poor, poor loan sharks... err, I mean financial institutions.
“It is something out of the Stalinist Era,” the South Carolina Republican said Sunday, defending his GOP colleagues’ efforts last week to block President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.You have to admit it's kind of funny to hear the self-described defenders of efficiency demanding the bureaucracy of a Board of Directors rather than a single Director who can quickly and efficiently make decisions. Must. Create. Big. Bureaucracies. Why? So that the agency cannot properly do its job and so that Republicans can get anti-consumer people on the Board who will screw with the agency.
“The reason Republicans don’t want to vote for it is we want a board, not one person making all the regulatory decisions, and there’s no oversight under this person; he gets a check from the Federal Reserve. We want him under the Congress so we can oversee the overseer,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.
Maybe Graham isn't familiar with the law. I mean, yeah, dude's a lawyer and a Senator, but come on, pretend-ignorance is such a better qualifier for a Republican office-holder. CFPB does have oversight. A Financial Stability Oversight Council, made up of nine individuals can block CFPB actions. The people on the oversight council are: the Secretary of Treasury, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, the Comptroller of Currency, the Director of the Bureau itself, the Chair of SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), the Chair of FDIC, the Chair of CFTC (Commodities and Futures Trade Commission), the Director of Federal Housing Finance Agency, and an independent member appointed by the President.
The only catch is that if the parts of the government that do not have consumer protection as their primary mission want to block consumer protection actions from the CFPB, they must find 6 of these 9 people to agree (i.e. the oversight council requires a two-thirds vote to block CFPB action).
And Congressional oversight? Congress has it. As the lawmaking body, if Congress does not like an action of the CFPB, they are free to pass a law overruling it and get the President to sign it. That is, after all, how the system is supposed to work. You know, the system our founders set up.
No, Graham and the Republicans aren't crowing because the CFPB doesn't have oversight or because the elected offiicials of government are powerless to act against it. Their beef is that they cannot use the tyranny of the minority to kneecap America's first dedicated agency to protect consumers. The CFPB is funded by the Fed rather than through direct Congressional appropriations, precisely in order to let it do its job without minority tyranny in the US Senate that Graham is part of.
Yes, how very Stalinist to try to protect Americans from banks, credit card companies, and pay day loan sharks who screwed the country over and brought us perilously close to the point of no return.
Ahh, I might have walked onto something there. See, Lindsey Graham and the rest of the Republicans are really mad because the financial giants got us only perilously close to the brink, but not over the cliff. And now, Dodd-Frank is ensuring that we stay off the cliff. The CFPB is actually serving one of the most important functions of financial reforms - protecting American consumers from the financial industry. Look at what it has already done:
- Introduced a two-page credit card agreement format that you can understand!
- Moving forward to simplify mortgage agreements and disclosure forms.
- Helping colleges better communicate student loan terms, and helping people simplify and consolidate their loans.
- Launched a program to protect veterans from loan sharks, an effort lead by Holly Petraeus.