WASHINGTON – The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing next Thursday on the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The Aug. 4 hearing is likely to be highly contentious, given that the CFPB has become a partisan lightning rod, and the fact that Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nominee for the job unless the Obama administration agrees to make changes to the bureau's structure.
"With next week's hearing, I will begin the process of moving Mr. Cordray's nomination forward to confirmation," Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson said in a written statement. "The CFPB opened its doors as an independent agency on July 21st, and it is off to a strong start promoting an equitable and transparent consumer financial marketplace. However, until it has a director, the CFPB will not be able to use its full powers to protect consumers and level the playing field for community banks and credit unions."
Next week's hearing would appear to preserve the near-term possibility of a recess appointment of Cordray. Although the White House could make a recess appointment prior to a nomination hearing, such a move was seen as highly unlikely. The Senate is scheduled to go into recess from Aug. 8-Sept. 5, but that could change, especially given the ongoing dispute in Congress over the debt ceiling.
Obama named Cordray earlier this month as his choice to become the first-ever director of the independent consumer bureau. Cordray is a former Ohio attorney general who has been heading up the nascent agency's enforcement division.
For the last several months, Cordray has been working for Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who first proposed the CFPB and was later brought on to build the bureau from scratch. Despite being the top choice of many consumer advocates, Warren was passed over for the five-year post as the CFPB's director.
Warren plans to return to Harvard next month. Democrats in Massachusetts and nationally are seeking to draft her to run for the U.S. Senate next year against Republican Sen. Scott Brown.