Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney urged lawmakers Wednesday to get behind the nominee who has been chosen to run the agency permanently and faced heightened criticism over her experience and possible ties to the administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
"Kathy Kraninger ... is going to be fantastic in this position," Mulvaney, who is also director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a fintech conference in New York.
Mulvaney then seemed to goad Democrats, who have been highly critical of the acting director's shepherding of the agency, by noting agency appointment rules that would let him keep his job for several months if Kraninger's nomination is held up. On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pledged to place hold on the nomination, saying she wanted more information on Kraninger's possible role at OMB helping to devise the policy to separate children from parents at the border.
"I am allowed to stay now until [Kraninger] is confirmed or denied by the Senate," Mulvaney said at the event, which was hosted by CB Insights, although he predicted that she would be confirmed in the fourth quarter. "The bottom line is this, in the extreme case — I doubt very seriously, and do not think it will come to this — I could stay until the end of the first term of the presidency."
Kraninger met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, according to a press release from his office.
“Ms. Kraninger’s resume and reputation suggest she’s well suited to continue on the course Acting Director Mulvaney has charted toward transparency, accountability, and effectiveness within proper limits," McConnell said in the release, which noted that the "Senate will consider this nomination in a timely manner."
The Q&A covered topics ranging from the CFPB's new innovation office to the "zero tolerance" policy, which has dominated the national news for days.
Mulvaney defended the immigration policy, which has sparked an outcry from both sides of the political spectrum. He was apparently unaware of reports saying that President Trump would sign an executive order reversing the policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican border.
When questioned by Erik Schatzker, editor-at-large at Bloomberg Television, Mulvaney equated putting children in detention centers with prisonlike cells to what happens when an American citizen is arrested.
"If you get arrested tonight for shooting me, we are going to detain you, we are going to put you in jail and we are going to separate you from your child. That's the law, that's what we do," Mulvaney said. "Your kids don't get to go with you to detention, to prison, and that's what we're doing on the border."
On the bureau's fintech policy, Mulvaney discussed the CFPB's rebranding of the Project Catalyst initiative, an effort to encourage startups, as the Office of Innovation. Although it is unclear how the two will be different, Mulvaney said the new office will soon have a new leader to oversee it.
"We're opening the Office of Innovation, we’ve changed it. It used to be Project Catalyst and we're going to be announcing next week a formal leader to that group," Mulvaney said.
He also continued to attack Warren, a trademark of his speeches since he was named to lead the agency in late November.
"Put yourself in the shoes of Elizabeth Warren," Mulvaney said. "Anybody's got to be better than me, so why not confirm Miss Kraninger and be done with it because that starts the five-year clock to whoever the next director is."
He also touched briefly on the regulation of cryptocurrencies, noting that some consumers have complained to the bureau about being unable to cash out their bitcoins.
"That would be a problem regardless of whether it is a new technology," he said.
But his most detailed comments were about the immigration policy. He borrowed from other administration statements, which have been widely disputed, that the "zero tolerance" policy was similar to steps taken by the previous administration, and suggested that the policy was humane.
"You can say as much as you want about the policy, which is zero tolerance, which is different from the previous administration, but not on the execution of the law," Mulvaney said. "I refuse to accept the premise that somehow it is inhumane when it's the exact same thing we do to our own citizens, and we do it for good reason. We don't want those folks in prison."
Mulvaney then urged the audience at the fintech conference to visit the detention centers for children.
"By the way," he said, "I've been to the detention centers; you should go. You should go. I've seen them."
"It sounds like we're keeping folks as zoo animals, and that doesn't help the discussion. So I reject the premise."