Warren Urges End to Re-Arguing Consumer Bureau’s Structure

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said her Republican colleagues should stop arguing over “settled decisions” and confirm Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Warren, speaking today at a Credit Union National Association conference in Washington, said bureau opponents must move beyond debating its structure, which was set by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The Massachusetts Democrat, who set up the bureau before being elected to Congress last year, has pledged to fight Republican efforts to alter its structure or funding.

“It’s time for Washington to stop re-litigating settled decisions -- holding our government hostage over ideology,” she said in her prepared remarks. “It is time for a clear path forward that allows for certainty.”

President Barack Obama installed Cordray as director in January 2012 with a recess appointment after Senate Republicans blocked his nomination. In January, Obama re-nominated Cordray and Republicans again pledged to block confirmation until Democrats agree to changes, including putting the bureau under the control of a bipartisan commission and subjecting its funding to the congressional appropriations process.

Cordray, 53, can be confirmed by a majority vote, but to call the vote on the Senate floor, Democrats need the support of 60 members. Since the chamber’s Democratic caucus has 55 members, five Republicans would have to break ranks to let a vote proceed.

Hearing Plans

The Senate Banking Committee plans to hold a hearing on Cordray’s nomination the week of March 11, according to a Senate aide who asked not to be named because the schedule hasn’t been announced.

On Feb. 1, a group of 43 Republican senators said they would continue to block any nominee for director until there are changes to the consumer bureau’s structure and funding.

“Never before in American history has a minority in the Senate blocked a nominee to try to get changes in a law they don’t like and don’t have the votes to change,” Warren said in her prepared remarks. “Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is the same position those senators took two years ago.”

Warren was passed over to be the first director of the consumer bureau, which she has been credited for conceiving as a Harvard Law School professor and organizing as an Obama administration adviser. She was elected in November.

Disputed Appointment

A federal court ruling last month overturned the validity of three recess appointments made at the same time as Cordray’s, making him vulnerable to a similar legal challenge. Such a challenge threatens actions the bureau took under his leadership, including levying fines against credit card firms for improper marketing practices and the setting of new standards for mortgage lending and servicing.

Warren urged credit unions in Washington for their conference to “use your clout” with lawmakers to get Cordray confirmed.

“Do what you can to tell your senators and those who will listen that it’s time to move on, time to stop re-litigating settled decisions, and time to confirm a director so the CFPB can create a safe harbor for your work so you can go about the business of serving your members,” Warren said. “It’s time to move forward.”

In comments at the conference before Warren spoke, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the consumer bureau was more a problem than a solution for credit unions.

“It’s important you’re here because it’s important that the members of Congress hear the threat that you feel by the new CFPB and its implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act,” Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said at the conference.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.