April 6, 2013

Our View: Consumer watchdog's job should not be filibustered

The Senate should hold an up-or-down vote on an important financial regulator's nomination.

The least controversial controversial nomination is expected to come before the U.S. Senate next week when Congress comes back from its spring recess.

Richard Cordray
click image to enlarge

Nobody questions the ability of Richard Cordray, above, to lead a new agency designed to look out for consumers, but Susan Collins and 42 other Republican senators are using a quirk in Senate rules to hold up a vote on his nomination.

The Associated Press

Richard Cordray, former attorney general for Ohio, has been nominated to become the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new agency designed to look out for consumers and protect them from the kind of shady lending and investment schemes that brought the economy to its knees in 2008.

No one questions Cordray's credentials, character or ability to do the job. He has, in fact, been running the agency on a recess appointment, and won high praise from Democrats and Republicans.

Nevertheless, the nomination is still controversial, as 43 Republican senators, including Maine's Sen. Susan Collins, have warned the White House they will not allow the nomination to come to a vote unless the agency is dramatically restructured.

In other words, this minority of senators is threatening to use a quirk in Senate rules to achieve what it could not do through the democratic process.

This is the kind of government by delay that has paralyzed Washington over the last two years, making the last Congress among the least productive and disliked in history. Sen. Collins and the others should not drag this overuse of the filibuster into another Congress.

The Republicans are demanding that the agency be restructured, replacing the single director with a commission.

That would make the agency weaker and could paralyze it completely if a partisan minority blocked the nomination of a tie-breaking commission member. That was done with the president's nominees for the Labor Relations Board, creating a deadlock that stopped it from functioning.

They are also demanding that the office be funded by Congress and not from a fee collected from the Federal Reserve. Control of those purse strings would also give a minority of lawmakers the ability to shut the bureau down.

The Republicans say that although they support consumer protection, they were excluded from the process when the bill was written and this is the only way they can have meaningful input. But that's not the issue.

What's before them is the Cordray nomination, not the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Collins and the others should put their differences aside and allow an up-or-down vote on this nomination.

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