THE CONSUMER Financial Protection Bureau was approved by Congress, signed into law by President Obama, and set up by Elizabeth Warren. But Republican opponents are still trying to thwart an agency they don’t like: They’re refusing to approve anyone to run it until Obama agrees to limit the agency’s oversight of financial institutions. At the very least, Richard Cordray, whose nomination to head the bureau was thwarted by a GOP filibuster this week, knows that it isn’t really about him.
Democrats believe that they already made compromises in the legislation creating the bureau and that Republicans are now obliged to endorse their highly qualified nominee. (Cordray is a former attorney general of Ohio, and helped Warren set up the bureau.) Republicans want more changes to the bureau’s authority, claiming that there are still concerns about the extent of its jurisdiction.
Even if those concerns were valid, refusing to confirm anyone at all to the post is a misuse of congressional authority; it’s akin to refusing to confirm anyone as secretary of state to protest a president’s foreign policy. The only realistic solution would be for President Obama to grant Cordray a temporary recess appointment. This wouldn’t be an act of petulance: Many of the bureau’s actions require a director to sign off on them.
To head off the recess appointment, Republicans say they might use a procedural tactic known as a “rump’’ session to keep Congress working, so that it never technically goes into recess, thereby denying Obama the chance to make a recess appointment.
It’s a sorry spectacle that happens only because those who start the process — in this case, a bloc of more than 40 Republican senators, not including Scott Brown — believe the public will perceive partisanship on both sides: An attempt to block the nomination, followed by an attempt at a recess appointment, followed by a rump session. But in this tit-for-tat-for-tat, the blame goes only in one direction.