President Barack Obama knew that the recalcitrant Republicans in Congress would never affirm Elizabeth Warren as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even though the bureau was the result of Warren's efforts. Warren is a fierce consumer advocate, Harvard professor and the logical person to run a board whose mission is to protect the interests of consumers.
Republicans, however, believe she would have fought too hard for ordinary Americans at the expense of huge financial corporations.
So the president nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead the agency created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. Cordray is more acceptable to Republicans. More than half the state attorneys general support his appointment, including Utah's Mark Shurtleff, a Republican.
But Cordray's nomination is being blocked anyway, by Republicans, including Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, who simply don't like the concept of a bureau with authority to oversee practices of mortgage and payday lenders, credit-reporting agencies and big banks that handle student loans.
Republicans, after all, are prone to side with corporations over individuals, and are naturally leery of giving an agency of the government any clout to protect consumers, even from the type of harmful practice that led America into the Great Recession.
Hatch says the bureau's director would have too much power. He wants the bureau to be run by a commission answering to Congress, despite the fact that other regulatory agencies are led by directors. Under the law, the CFPB must periodically report to Congress on its activities and is audited by the Government Accountability Office.
But Hatch, Lee and other Republicans want Congress, instead of the Federal Reserve as the law mandates, to mind the bureau's purse strings. They would neuter the bureau and put it squarely under the thumb of Congress members who are beholden to Wall Street donors.
Americans need an independent agency that can act as a watchdog over financial institutions to prevent fraud and abuse, as free as possible from the corporate control of Congress that so many Americans deplore.
Only 9 percent of Americans support the way Congress runs the country. If we have learned anything from the financial meltdown that is still hobbling the economy, it is that consumers need an advocate. Certainly, they do not feel their congressional representatives can be trusted to fill that role. Cordray should be confirmed so the CFPB can do its job.
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