Yes, President Obama's decision to use a recess appointment to name a boss for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is something that might fairly be described as "a power grab."
Some Republicans are fuming at the news that former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray will be running the agency without Senate confirmation. What they don't say is that the power here is being grabbed away from obstructionist tools of Wall Street we're looking at you, Sen. Orrin Hatch and placed in the service of the American people.
The CFPB was created by an act of Congress. The president has the power, and thus the duty, to appoint someone to run the agency. Without a boss, the body created to stand with the consumer against banks, mortgage lenders and other agents of financial chicanery will be unable to do its job.
Which, of course, is just what Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, along with other Senate Republicans, want. They are apparently petrified that there might be some center of power in Washington that stands with the average consumer, with honest people who will forever be seen as pigeons by the purveyors of high-interest loans, hidden-fee credit cards and balloon-payment mortgages.
Last month, Senate Republicans filibustered the nomination of Cordray, a public official with a clean record and impeccable credentials. They admitted they had nothing against Cordray, but were using the nomination as a tool a power grab to stop the CFPB from getting off the ground.
The Republicans' lame complaints centered on the claim that the agency stands to be too independent of Congress, beholden to the Federal Reserve for its funding. But that merely betrays Republican fears that the new agency might at least begin its life actually regulating industry before it goes the way of all bureaucratic flesh and becomes far to cozy with the very businesses it is supposed to oversee. We're looking at you, Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Constitution allows a president to fill an executive vacancy any time the Senate is in recess, and make that appointment stick until the next session of the Senate ends. Both parties have used the device over the years, and both parties have complained about it. This recess appointment could give Cordray and the CFPB about two years to prove their worth by limiting the ability of financial titans to fleece the consumers of America.
If President Obama is re-elected and that is still a big if it will be because he convinced the American people that moves like this are in their interest, and that those who stand against them are in the service of someone else.
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