WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and two other members of the Senate Banking Committee attempted to shame Republicans on Wednesday for seeking to block Richard Cordray's nomination as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In a news conference on Capitol Hill, Warren and Sens. Jack Reed and Sherrod Brown said it was improper to effectively hold Cordray's nomination hostage in an effort to get Democrats to agree to structural changes at the agency.
"It's fundamentally wrong to hold up a vote on Rich Cordray," said Warren. "The president has nominated him. He appointed him during recess and has now reappointed him. Rich has proven what he can do. This agency has proven what it can do. The agency has been signed into law. We've got every piece we need, and the notion that a minority can hold up the laws of the United State by using the filibuster on an appointment is fundamentally wrong."
The three senators signaled they have no intention of compromising with Republicans, who are demanding that the agency's director be replaced with a 5-member commission and that it be subjected to the Congressional appropriations process. They said the agency's structure had been decided by Dodd-Frank in 2010, and they shouldn't use the nominations process to try and re-fight a legislative battle.
"It's certainly the prerogative of my colleagues to work on improving any piece of legislation," Reed said, "but to effectively say… 'We will not let that bipartisan legislation that has passed by 60 votes, the Dodd-Frank Act… to take effect because we don't like the person in charge.'"
The Dodd-Frank Act was not supported by most Republicans, but Democrats were able to convince three GOP senators to sign on to the legislation. Still, Reed said that should settle the issue.
"This was a process of collaboration and discussion and debate between Republicans and Democrats that led to a bipartisan vote on a director" for the CFPB, Reed said.
Rebutting arguments made by Republicans to weaken the agency, Reed and others said the agency is already subject to review by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, unlike any other financial regulatory agencies. He disagreed with colleagues who argue that Congress should be able to control the agency's budget. Doing so, he said, will serve as open invitation to "squeeze out the resources of the CFPB to get the job done," and would ask taxpayers to pay the entire bill, not the banks.
Brown said it is the first time in the Senate's history where lawmakers have attempted to stall a "qualified nominee" because they opposed the agency. No one, he said, has disputed that Cordray is qualified for the job.
"It's clear why they are blocking Rich Cordray as the leader of the agency they simply don't want that kind of Wall Street oversight," said Brown.