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Opinion: Republicans should not back down on Cordray nomination

On Dec. 8, the Senate vote on advancing the nomination of Richard Cordray to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fell several votes short. As a result Democrats are howling about obstructionist Republicans who care more about banks than they do consumers, serve as stooges for the rich, remain too close to greedy Wall Street moguls and stand against the crumbling middle class.

Hogwash.

Months ago, 44 Senate Republicans told the president they would not support anyone to serve as director of the CFPB unless there were changes to its structure. Those changes included the creation of a five-member commission to govern the Bureau's operation instead of a single director with unfettered discretion to do what he or she pleases, and to subject the Bureau to Congressional accountability for its budget and what it does with the money.

As things stand, the Bureau is accountable to no one, not even the Federal Reserve which provides the money to fund its operation. It can give the money it rakes in from fines and penalties to any consumer advocacy group it chooses, like ACORN. No agency in Washington – or anyplace else for that matter – has such broad authority to operate without someone looking over its shoulder.

There's no doubt the issue will be part of the 2012 election campaign, but in typical Washington fashion the Democrats distort the reason behind Republican opposition. We know it's complicated, but that doesn't make it any less relevant.

Democrats believe the Cordray/CFPB Director issue is a “winner” politically. They ignore the fact that a single director has unfettered power over the largest financial services regulator in U.S. history. And they ignore the fact that there is virtually no oversight – by Congress, the Administration or the judiciary.

Will this “red herring” connect with voters next November? Who knows? But the point is it's not accurate. The president has had eight months to respond to Republican concerns. He did nothing other than try to ram through the Cordray nomination.

"I just want to send a message to the Senate: We are not giving up on this," the president was quoted as saying. "We're 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 by unscrupulous financial operators. And we're going to keep on pushing on this issue."

Really? The Democrats' response IS “politics as usual.” And that's the sad part. It's probable that the Cordray nomination will be brought up repeatedly so Democrats can force Republicans to vote “no” on the procedural motion and use it for political gain in November. That's the “politics” as usual part and it's being utilized by the Administration and Senate Democrats.

Here's the point: No one is suggesting the Bureau be dismantled. No one is suggesting a change in its mission. No one is suggesting that somehow the sting of its oversight reach be lessened.

All that's being suggested is that one person not be given unfettered discretion and power over every issue that deals with consumer financial protection. The decisions, rules and regulations that emanate from the CFPB will impact every aspect of every relationship between a consumer and his or her financial institution of choice. There should be at least be some minimal oversight of its operation, first by a five-member commission and then by Congress. That's good governance, not politics.

Meanwhile Richard Cordray gets thrown to the wind. And he deserves better than that.

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