Grill On The Hill: Republicans Serve Up Consumer Protection Figure
WASHINGTON – Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee took presidential advisor Elizabeth Warren to task yesterday for her role in developing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, saying her duties amounted to an end-run around congressional confirmation of a director for the new agency.
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck,” said Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin freshman, of Warren’s denials that her role amounts to being more than a presidential advisor. Warren insisted she is serving at the behest of the Treasury Secretary to create the new consumer bureau, which is styled after her own writings on consumer advocacy.
“I return to my duck analogy,” said Duffy. “It appears you are acting as the director.”
The Republicans, who opposed creation of the consumer agency, said Warren was being groomed as the first director of the agency as a way for the president to bypass the Senate confirmation process because so many Republicans oppose her appointment. They suggested President Obama will appoint Warren as director when Congress departs for one of its spring vacations as a so-called recess appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation.
After the hearing, the Republican members introduced a bill that would create a five-person board to head the consumer agency, instead of a single director. “It always seemed clear to me that the Dodd-Frank Act put too much power in the hands of one person. Today’s hearing in the Financial Institutions Subcommittee confirmed it,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, the chairman of the committee, of the Wall Street reform bill that created the consumer agency. “Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the director of the CFPB is given a broad and virtually unlimited mandate to substitute his or her judgment for that of consumers and the free market. Because the CFPB might be the most powerful agency ever created, I am introducing this bill to ensure that a non-partisan, balanced approach to consumer protection prevails.”
A multiple member board is the same structure the federal government has for several important agencies, including the FDIC, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission and NCUA.