Obama to Make Recess Appointment for Head of New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Washington – President Barack Obama today will announce the recess appointment of his choice to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, setting up a pitched battle with congressional Republicans who oppose the new agency. Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray was aboard Air Force One with Obama for a trip to Ohio, where White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer – in a Tweet titled “We Can’t Wait” – said Obama would announce the appointment.

Senate Republicans last month blocked a confirmation vote on Cordray and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell ripped into Obama for making what he called an “unprecedented recess” appointment – because the Senate is not in official recess. Traditionally, McConnell said, presidents make such appointments only when the Senate is in recess of 10 days or longer. Obama, McConnell said, “has arrogantly circumvented the American people’’ by making the recess appointment.

“Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch,” McConnell warned.

But Pfeiffer in a White House blog entry said Senate Republicans had created a “gimmick” to prevent Obama from exercising his recess appointment authority. “You might hear some folks across the aisle criticize this ‘recess appointment,’ Pfeiffer said. “It’s probably the same folks who don’t think we need a tough consumer watchdog in the first place.”

The back and forth over Cordray underscores the partisan fighting that has characterized every development of the new consumer protection bureau, the most tangible government response to the nation's 2008 economic meltdown. In a press conference after Cordray was blocked, Obama appeared to leave the door open for a possible recess appointment when lawmakers were gone for the holidays. “We are not giving up on this,” he said. “We are going to keep on going at it. We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected.”

Created by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law in 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau serves as America's beat cop against deceptive, abusive and predatory loan products in the financial marketplace.

Republicans have opposed the agency from the start, arguing it will hamper job growth. House Speaker John Boehner in a statement said the agency is “bad for jobs and bad for the economy” and charged that Obama had acted beyond the bounds of his authority. “I expect the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate,” he said.

Consumer advocates hailed the appointment, saying that the watchdog agency could begin doing its work. “American consumers can not wait any longer while Senate Republicans and industry lobbyists play games with the nomination process,” said Lauren Saunders, managing attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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