Obama makes Richard Cordray head of CFPB
President Obama has appointed Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The controversial move comes after U.S. Senate Republicans blocked Cordray’s nomination last month with a filibuster.
Obama made Cordray, also a former treasurer for Franklin County, Ohio, and American City & County’s 2005 County Leader of the Year, the head of CFPB by using his powers to make so-called “recess appointments,” which allow him to make appointments while Congress is in recess. However, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Republicans say that Congress, while largely on break, has been holding ‘pro-forma’ sessions every three days, meeting a constitutional requirement to avoid having to call a recess. Without a recess, GOP officials say, the president has no authority to make so-called recess appointments and get around Senate objections.”
Predictably, Obama’s move sparked heated Republican reactions. House Speaker John Boehner called the appointment “an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department,” according to The Plain Dealer.
However, on the White House blog, Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s communications director, wrote, “The Senate has effectively been in recess for weeks, and is expected to remain in recess for weeks. In an overt attempt to prevent the [president] from exercising his authority during this period, Republican Senators insisted on using a gimmick called ‘pro forma’ sessions, which are sessions during which no Senate business is conducted and instead one or two Senators simply gavel in and out of session in a matter of seconds.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that the dispute is likely head to court.
In December, the U.S. Conference of Mayors urged the Senate to approve Cordray’s nomination. Senate Republicans have fought Cordray’s nomination in part because they believe the new agency would not have enough accountability to Congress and they would also rather see the agency governed by a five-member board instead of a single director.