Senate Republicans Cancel Recess To Block Consumer Appointment

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WASHINGTON – In an extraordinary gambit, Senate Republicans held the Senate in session on Friday in order to prevent an expected appointment of consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren as director for the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

By refusing to leave the Capitol for the Senate’s annual Memorial Day recess, the Senate minority was able to block a presidential recess appointment which would have enabled Warren to head the new agency without the necessary approval by the Senate. This week’s special pro forma Senate session will consist of one or two senators gaveling open the Senate with no legislative work being conducted.

The GOP in both the Senate and House, with the backing of bank and credit union groups, has waged a withering lobby against the new agency and Warren herself, who led a 10-year campaign against banks and credit unions over bankruptcy reform. Credit unions and banks have championed the GOP’s legislative efforts to water down the new consumer agency.

In recent days liberal groups and consumer advocacies have stepped up their efforts to get Warren, a Harvard professor, named director of the new agency. Last week a group called Change Campaign Committee said it collected 175,000 names on a petition urging swift appointment of Warren to direct the new agency.

Friday’s Senate gambit added a new element to the battle of the consumer nomination. Recess appointments are widely used by Presidents either as an emergency appointment to fill government positions or to bypass opposition in the Senate, which can block an appointment with just 41 votes. Earlier this month, 44 Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama saying they will not confirm a director of the consumer bureau until legislation is passed watering down the job from a single director to a five-person board.

That’s why observers were expecting President Obama to name Warren, who has been working as an advisor to the Treasury Department developing the new consumer bureau, as a recess appointment.

“President Obama has been packing federal agencies with left-wing ideologues, but thankfully he won’t be able to for at least the next week,” Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said last week.

Republican senators say they are blocking the annual Memorial Day recess because the Democratic majority has yet to propose its own budget. Democrats have delayed releasing a budget until deficit-reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden run their course. Republicans charge that Democrats have shirked their responsibility to set legislative priorities and draft a plan.


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