Senate pushes back approval of CFPB head

Despite a late push from the Obama administration to improve the likelihood that the Senate would vote on approving the candidate for the top position in the federal government’s new consumer protection agency, Senate Republicans chose to delay the decision until late January.

President Barack Obama had hoped to push the appointment of Richard Cordray to head up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prior to Congress entering recess for the holiday season, but 45 GOP Senators refused to allow his and two other federal banking appointments to go through, according to a report from Reuters. Also pushed back were the approvals of Martin Gruenberg and Thomas Hoenig as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., as well as Thomas Curry’s appointment to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

In all cases, Republicans said the Obama administration did not give enough assurances that it would not make any temporary appointments during the upcoming recess, the report said. And in an effort to further prevent any such recess appointments, the Senate will also hold what are known as “pro forma” sessions while Congress is adjourned. In addition, Republicans are also staunchly opposed to the appointment of anyone – Cordray or otherwise – to the top position in the CFPB, and would prefer that the agency be headed by a bipartisan committee.

The same day, however, the Senate Finance Committee approved the appointment of Mary Miller to a position in the U.S. Treasury Department that would have her overseeing policy as it relates to the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act, the report said. It also pushed through the appointment of Alastair Fitzpayne as Treasury’s head of legislative affairs. However, both must still be confirmed by the full Senate at a later date, and the votes there are less certain.

Cordray, the former Attorney General of Ohio, has been awaiting appointment for the position at the top of the CFPB for some time, and the agency has been running without an official chief since it gained full regulatory power back in July. Since that time, it has worked under the temporary direction of Treasury official Raj Date, and has focused on clarifying and simplifying credit agreements between consumers and lenders.