A deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans has resulted in an after-hours confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
With a final confirmation vote count of 66-34 Tuesday night, Cordray can now put aside the controversy surrounding his appointment and settle in to a five-year term.
Earlier in the day, the Senate had moved the appointment forward by invoking cloture, limiting debate on the coming vote and avoiding the so-called “nuclear option” of changing filibuster rules.
President Barack Obama first nominated Cordray in July 2011 but Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation. In response, Obama installed Cordray with a recess appointment during the Senate’s 2011 winter break that would have expired at the end of this year.
Republicans in both the Senate and the House balked at the move, and the recess appointment was also threatened by a lawsuit that is expected to reach the Supreme Court over other appointments made during the same period to the National Labor Relations Board.
In exchange for Cordray’s confirmation and the additional confirmation of some pending appointees, Senate Democrats agreed to leave filibuster rules in place. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had threatened to alter the rules, which allow for unlimited debate in the upper chamber unless 60 Senators vote to cut it off.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who headed the effort to develop the CFPB, said in a statement after it became clear Cordray’s confirmation was imminent, that the bureau is the law of the land and here to stay.
“We fought hard for the agency, and we proved that big change is still possible in Washington,” she said. “Now we have the watchdog that the American people deserve –
a watchdog looking out for middle class families, getting rid of tricks, traps and fine print, and holding financial institutions accountable when they break the law."
CUNA and NAFCU promptly congratulated Cordray on his appointment and lauded him for his accessibility and willingness to listen to credit union industry concerns.
“In fact, on a number of occasions, (Corday) has been willing to make positive rule changes even after a regulation has been adopted – a very rare occurrence for a regulator,” CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said in a release.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who had banned Cordray from testifying before the committee over the recess appointment issue, said in a statement that the committee will call on him to present the CFPB’s semi-annual report as soon as practicable.
“His confirmation, however, does not change the fact that the CFPB lacks the most basic semblance of accountability and transparency that hardworking taxpayers deserve from government agencies,” Hensarling said.
"No one unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat in Washington should have so much control over the financial destiny of Americans, particularly one who is completely insulated from the types of checks and balances that apply to other government agencies. Our committee will continue its vigorous oversight of the CFPB and do everything we can to make the CFPB as accountable as possible."
Hensarling had advocated for Cordray to be replaced with a bipartisan commission to oversee the bureau, and has also called for the CFPB’s budget to be approved by Congress.