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Cordray Nomination Gets White House Push Before Senate Vote

The Obama administration pressed the Senate for confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as Republicans said they had enough votes to block the nomination.

Republicans had the chance to raise concerns when the law creating the bureau was being written and “the Senate should get on” with the task of confirming Cordray, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said at the White House briefing.

Tomorrow’s vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Cordray is a top priority for the administration. The consumer bureau “without its full authorities is hamstrung in its ability to help level the playing field between small banks and nonbank financial service providers,” the White House said in a statement today.

Obama has touted the standalone bureau, which would oversee and regulate consumer financial products, as one of the hallmarks of last year’s Dodd-Frank overhaul of Washington’s rules for Wall Street.

House and Senate Republicans say the agency wouldn’t have enough accountability and have pushed for legislative changes that would place the bureau under the congressional appropriations process and replace the director position with a five-member board. Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nominee without the structural changes.

Budget Accountability

“It is inconceivable that in this time of tight budgets that we would create a new agency that is completely unaccountable in terms of its budget,” which may be more than $500 million, Senator Susan Collins of Maine said yesterday.

Collins said Cordray is “clearly a qualified individual” but it “has everything to do with accountability for how money is spent in government.”

Wolin said the bureau will be “transparent and accountable” and is structured like other agencies overseeing financial institutions because “we want to make sure that our bank regulators are free of political influence.”

Democrats control 53 votes in the Senate, where the rules require 60 votes to move ahead with legislation.

Obama is scheduled to sit for interviews tomorrow with local television stations in Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Tennessee and Utah, states where the administration is seeking to sway a Republican senator. The White House also brought attorneys general from Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina and Utah to the White House to lobby for Cordray’s confirmation.

White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to comment when asked whether Obama would use his recess appointment authority to put Cordray in place if no Senate vote takes place.

Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, is currently serving as enforcement chief at the bureau.

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