Thursday, May 5, 2011
Senate Republicans wrote Thursday to President Obama that they would hold up any nomination to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created under the Dodd-Frank financial regulation act, unless the administration agrees to "structural changes that will make the Bureau accountable to the American people."
Senate Republicans identified three "common sense reforms":
- Replace the single Director with a Board.
- Take the CFPB's funding out from under the Federal Reserve and put it directly through the regular appropriations process.
- Allow the Financial Stability Oversight Council to set aside or stay any regulation issued by the CFPB "if the regulation puts at risk the safety and soundness of the entire U.S. banking system or the stability of the U.S. financial system." (Here's a FAQ sheet on the FSOC, a body created by Dodd-Frank and housed in Treasury.)
These reforms are similar to those in legislation passed this week along party lines in the House Committee on Financial Services. H.R. 1121 would replace the Director with a five-person Commission, each nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, serving staggered five-year terms and removable by the President only for cause. H.R. 1315 would allow the FSOC to review and set aside CFPB regulations. And H.R. 1667 would hold up the transfer of functions from the Fed, the FDIC, and other agencies to the CFPB, and would keep interim CFPB functions within Treasury, until the President nominates, and the Senate confirms, a Director. (H.R. 1667 requires Senate confirmation, not a recess appointment.)
President Obama has yet to nominate a Director, but Elizabeth Warren is serving as an advisor and helping set up the CFPB.
The Senate Republicans' move apparently leaves four options for the President: Agree to the proposed changes (and get Senate consideration, though not certain confirmation, for a nominee); make a recess appointment and keep the CFPB as is; negotiate down the Republicans' demands; or do nothing.
The House legislation would further limit options by requiring Senate confirmation of a Director before the CFPB could get off the ground on its own. This would force a nomination in order to get full and independent authority for the CFPB.