WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts accused her GOP counterparts at a Senate Banking Committee hearing of attempting to weaken a fledgling consumer protection bureau Tuesday, 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 have stiffly resisted the confirmation of Richard Cordray as its director.
Warren, who before running for the Senate helped conceive of the agency and its mission to help consumers avoid predatory lending practices, remains among its ardent supporters.
“The delay for getting him confirmed is bad for consumers,” the Bay State lawmaker said. “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 him to head the bureau last year in a recess appointment. Obama renominated Cordray and confirmation proceedings are under way.
“Everybody in this room and everybody who’s paying attention knows 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 to curry 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 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 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
WASHINGTON — Responding to criticism from a fellow Democrat, the White House said Tuesday that anyone unhappy with the level of diversity in President Obama’s second-term Cabinet should hold the criticism until he completes it.
White House spokesman Jay Carney commented about a letter to the president from Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, in which she worried that an African-American was not among the new members of Obama’s Cabinet.
“You have publicly expressed your commitment to retaining diversity within your Cabinet,” Fudge wrote. “However, the people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity.”
Obama named white men and women to oversee the departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Energy, and Interior, as well as the CIA, EPA, and Office of Management and Budget. He was criticized for a lack of diversity at the start of his second term after he initially named no women to top posts.
Carney said Tuesday that Obama is deeply committed to having a diverse Cabinet because he believes it makes for better decision-making. He encouraged critics to “assess the diversity of appointments once they’ve all been made.”
“There are obviously still appointments the president will be making,” Carney said. “The president is committed to diversity. He believes that having a diverse Cabinet and a diverse set of advisers enhances the decision-making and deliberation process”
Obama still must name new heads for the departments of Labor, Commerce, and Transportation, as well as a new US trade representative and head of the Small Business Administration. Labor was headed by a Latina, Hilda Solis, and Ron Kirk, the outgoing trade representative, is black.
The Cabinet includes Attorney General Eric Holder and Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, both of whom are black and are continuing in the posts they held in the president’s first term.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES — Michelle Obama is the latest public figure to have her Social Security number and credit report leaked online by a website posting private data on celebrities and government officials.
The FBI and the Secret Service are investigating the site, which has credit information on stars such as Mel Gibson, Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The website includes Social Security numbers for 17 individuals and most of its pages have links to recent credit reports.
It bears an Internet suffix assigned to the Soviet Union.
The site does not state why the individuals were targeted or how their data was obtained, but its Twitter account bears an anti-police message.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS