Obama Defies Congress With Appointment of Consumer Protection Chief

Obama Defies Congress With Appointment of Consumer Protection Chief

In a bold move destined to further strain his relationship with congressional Republicans, President Obama on Wednesday announced he would install Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through a recess appointment while lawmakers are home for the holidays. Senate Republicans blocked Cordray’s confirmation in December, asserting the new agency has too much power and too little accountability. But according to Obama, their opposition was just another sign that the GOP is more concerned about the interests of Wall Street than financial protection for average citizens.

“The only reason Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard is because they don’t agree with the [financial reform] law that set up a consumer watchdog in the first place,” Obama said when he announced the appointment before a cheering crowd in Cordray’s home state of Ohio. “That makes no sense. We shouldn’t be weakening oversight; we shouldn’t be weakening accountability. We should be strengthening them.”

The agency was created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to oversee mortgage companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial services providers. It is also designed to protect borrowers from potential abuses like sub-prime loans that have led to a disproportionately high level of home foreclosures in Black communities nationwide.

Obama in his remarks said he refused to take “no” for an answer and would not “stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people we were elected to serve.”

Unsurprisingly, Republican leaders were outraged, suggesting they may legally challenge the president’s action.

“This is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement. “The precedent that would be set by this cavalier action would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our Constitution.”