Elizabeth Warren joins protesters outside consumer agency
WASHINGTON — Seven years after Elizabeth Warren fought a political battle to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Massachusetts senator was on the sidewalk outside the agency Tuesday fighting for its future.
Warren headlined a demonstration of about 40 people protesting President Trump’s pick of budget director Mick Mulvaney, an avowed opponent of the CFPB, as its new leader.
“Hey hey, ho ho, Mick Mulvaney has got to go,” they chanted.
The demonstration followed a surreal day Monday when both Mulvaney and former CFPB deputy director Leandra English came to work claiming the title of “acting director,” sowing confusion in the ranks and drawing national media attention.
The rally was organized by the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, which backs Warren.
The consumer agency — dreamed up by Warren when she was a Harvard Law professor and created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis — investigates and levies penalties against companies that abuse consumers through unfair mortgages, student loans, bank accounts, and other financial products.
The relatively obscure bureau does not usually provide reason for spirited public demonstration, but the prospect of a Trump administration official running the bureau has prompted an outcry from the progressive wing.
When the agency’s former director Richard Cordray departed Friday, he picked deputy director Leandra English to take the helm. But Trump appointed Mulvaney to the position instead, prompting English to sue the president Sunday night in an attempt to block his pick. The dispute is now pending in US District Court in Washington.
The bureau was created in the wake of the 2008 recession to curb unfair financial practices, and Republicans have charged that it has gone too far in punishing big business.
“It would both frighten and disturb you that this agency is as independent as it is,” Mulvaney told reporters Monday.
But independence is just what the Democratic framers of the bureau say they intended.
Democratic politicians such as Warren say English is entitled to the job based on the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which established the agency and set out rules for leadership succession. Trump administration officials counter that a 1998 law should take precedent, giving the president the authority to choose the interim chief. Both the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the bureau’s own general counsel have sided with the president’s appointment.
At Monday’s demonstration, Warren told reporters that the overlap of this leadership fight with the debate over the Republican tax bill in Senate demonstrates Trump’s “U-turn” from his antiestablishment campaign rhetoric.
“It’s like a double kiss to Wall Street this week,” she said. “Trying to push forward tax reform that gives $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to giant corporations and at the same time trying to hollow out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
David Behler, a 60-year-old retired government employee, said he showed up to the protest because he fears a repeat of the 2008 global financial crisis that lost millions of Americans their homes.
“I think he would gut the agency,” Behler said of Mulvaney. “The financial sector needs to be regulated to make sure they don’t create another financial meltdown.”