Home > 2011 > Personal Finance > Down-to-the-Wire Lobbying Push for Embattled Consumer Watchdog

Down-to-the-Wire Lobbying Push for Embattled Consumer Watchdog

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The Senate could vote as early as Thursday on whether to confirm former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the first permanent director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. President Obama has unveiled a new lobbying campaign to pressure Republicans who oppose the nomination to change their minds.

As the vote approaches, such a change of heart is looking increasingly unlikely. Instead, Republican leaders are doubling down, saying they will block any nominee until they win concessions from the president that would limit the bureau’s power and authority.

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“If you ask me, the American people should be getting more transparency out of this administration not less,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – KY) said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “We don’t need any more unelected, unaccountable czars in Washington.”

The president’s lobbying push includes visits by administration leaders to states including Ohio, Maine, Alaska and Iowa. It also includes the release of a report by the White House estimating that the continued lack of a permanent consumer safety director is costing consumers billions of dollars a year. Payday lenders, which are largely unregulated under current federal law, use interest rates of around 400% to reap $4.2 billion in fees, according to the report.

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During the housing boom, most big subprime mortgages were written by companies that weren’t banks, placing them outside the jurisdiction of most federal laws. Now, half of all subprime loans written in 2006 are in default, dragging down the housing industry and the economy as a whole.

The consumer bureau currently has the power to study such institutions, but it doesn’t get the power to write new rules governing consumer protection by those industries until it has a permanent director in place.

Republicans “want to prevent the confirmation of any consumer watchdog because they don’t want that agency to be able to fully function and operate and protect consumers,” Jay Carney, the president’s press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday. “That’s unacceptable.”

The Republican-led Senate is expected to hear Cordray’s nomination on Thursday. With more than 40 Republicans vowing to oppose the nomination, it appears unlikely that the President will get the 60 of 100 votes he needs.

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Image: VeronicaVPhotography, via Flickr.com

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