Wednesday December 07, 2011 | 02:52 PM

Sen. Olympia Snowe was to meet with Richard Cordray today, but the Maine Republican isn't budging from the near-solid line of GOP opposition to the nominee for the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her office says

Republicans say they don't have anything against Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general. But 44 Senate Republicans, including Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, signed a letter earlier this year saying they would block any nominee for the bureau unless changes are made in its structure.

Most Republicans - Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts has broken party ranks on the issue - say they want the Obama administration to agree to such changes as giving lawmakers more say over the bureau's budget before they are willing to vote to confirm a director.

The Obama administration is pushing hard for the confirmation and targeting a handful of GOP senators, including Collins and Snowe. But neither Maine senator so far is budging.

The White House says that without a director in place, the bureau can't excercise full powers over many non-bank financial institutions, such as payday lenders or debt collectors, to make sure consumers aren't being duped or treated unfairly.

Collins met with Cordray recently, as well.

(Updated as of 3:30 p.m.: With a Senate vote expected Thursday, former Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Maine Democratic Party vice chair, is among the Democrats criticizing Collins and Snowe for not breaking party ranks and supporting Cordray’s confirmation.

“We need Rich Cordray to rein in the predatory lending practices of payday lenders and other fly-by-night money brokers,” Mills said in a statement released by the Maine Democratic Party. “This agency, with Rich Cordray's strong leadership, will help our local community banks by leveling the playing field for them.”)

(Updated as of 5:45 p.m.: Mills noted in a phone interview that Collins and Snowe were among a handful of Republican senators to vote for the 2010 financial regulatory reform bill that created the consumer protection bureau. She urged them not to let concerns about the structure of the agency outweigh the good the agency could do for consumers with a director in place. "This is such a critical piece of the bill," Mills said. "This agency cannot level the playing field and impose the same rules on non-bank institutions without having a director in place.")

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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