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Warren says GOP weakens consumer protection agency

Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke with Richard Cordray, center, nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and his wife Peggy Cordray, after a confirmation hearing.

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke with Richard Cordray, center, nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and his wife Peggy Cordray, after a confirmation hearing.

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren accused her GOP counterparts at a Senate Banking Committee hearing of attempting to weaken a fledgling consumer protection bureau, as Republican senators continued to oppose the nominee to head the agency.

Republicans object to the structure and what they call a lack of oversight for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services regulatory overhaul. In turn, they’ve put up stiff resistance to the confirmation of Richard Cordray as its director.

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Warren, who helped conceive of the agency and its mission to help consumers avoid predatory lending practices before running for Senate, remains among its most ardent supporters.

“The delay for getting him confirmed is bad for consumers,” the Bay State lawmaker said of Cordray’s nomination. “It’s bad for small banks. It’s bad for credit unions. It’s bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.”

The bureau was formed in 2011 to safeguard consumers in transactions related to anything from credit cards to home mortgages. President Obama got around Republican opposition to Cordray’s first nomination by naming Cordray to head the bureau last year in a recess appointment. Obama re-nominated Cordray in January and confirmation proceedings are under way.

``Everybody in this room and everybody who’s paying attention know people in their extended family and friends who struggle with consumer financial issues, who need help and support in navigating complex financial markets,” Cordray said Tuesday, citing $425 million his agency has already refunded to consumers.

Republicans insisted on waiting to approve his nomination until the White House agrees to changes in the bureau’s structure. Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, ranking Republican on the committee, said the consumer bureau should be directed by a commission, not an individual, and that the agency’s budget should be overseen by Congress. Its purse is currently controlled by the Federal Reserve Bank.

Cordray’s nomination requires 60 senators’ approval to advance to the floor. But 43 Republicans have signed a pledge to block the nomination. Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, expressed optimism that the Senate could find a middle ground “that makes everyone on both sides of the aisle feel comfortable,” he said.

The committee’s Democratic majority contended Tuesday that the Republicans were merely trying to dismantle Dodd-Frank reforms in favor of currying favor with Wall Street.

Warren’s advocacy for and eventual organization of the agency catapulted her into the national spotlight. Though expected to be Obama’s first choice to head the bureau, Warren was passed over for fear of Republican backlash in Congress.

Nearly two years later, Warren is making her same case to lawmakers -- this time, from a Senate seat.

“The American people,” she said, “deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans and on credit reports.”

David Uberti can be reached at David.Uberti@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidUberti.
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