Warren Calls on Republicans to End Block of Consumer Agency Vote

Elizabeth Warren called on her Senate colleagues to end their effort to block a vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray to head the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“It’s time for the United States Senate to give Rich Cordray an up-or-a-down vote,” Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told reporters in a news conference today. “If there are senators who want to vote no, let them vote no and explain that to the American people.”

Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Democrats would turn up the pressure on Republicans to allow a vote by seeking to persuade voters that the bureau, a centerpiece of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, is needed to protect consumers from the kind of abusive financial products that contributed to the 2008 economic crisis.

The consumer bureau is “being undermined, throttled, cut back” by Republican opposition, Reed said. “And if we can get that word out, the pressure will build. Ultimately, one of the virtues of this country is that we do respond to the public. That’s what caused Dodd-Frank to pass.”

Warren was passed over to be the first director of the bureau even though she conceived it as a Harvard University professor and organized it as a White House adviser. Instead, Obama nominated Cordray, her enforcement director. Warren ran for Senate from Massachusetts and won.

Vote Blocked

Although Cordray can be confirmed by majority vote, a minority of 40 can block an agreement to hold the vote in the 100-member chamber.

Senate Republicans have blocked a vote on his nomination, arguing that the director has too much power and should be replaced by a five-member commission. To break the stalemate, Obama installed Cordray as director in January 2012 using a recess appointment.

A federal court ruling last month overturned the validity of three recess appointments made at the same time as Cordray, making him vulnerable to a similar legal challenge.

Obama renominated Cordray to the directorship on Jan. 24. On Feb. 1, a group of 43 Republican senators said they would continue to block any nominee to the post of CFPB director without changes to the structure and funding of the agency.

In the news conference, Warren dismissed the Republican demand that the consumer bureau director’s post be replaced with a five-member commission.

“Trying to get five appointments through is not somehow easier than getting one appointment through,” Warren said. “I did the math.”

She said that the stalemate has increased uncertainty for banks and consumers, including over regulations on mortgages the agency has recently issued.

“Our marketplace needs certainty,” Warren said. “If there is a doubt about whether or not the consumer agency can issue those rules, the banks are in a position of great uncertainty.”

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