“Mr. President, two months ago the Senate Banking Committee voted along party lines to send to the full Senate the nomination of Richard Cordray to be the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Due to an unprecedented and irresponsible display of political gamesmanship, Mr. Cordray’s nomination and strong protections for American consumers are being held hostage.
“Before any candidate was put forth, Senate Republicans pledged to block the nomination, and their objections have nothing to do with Mr. Cordray’s qualifications, his politics, or his character. Republican Senators have actually admitted as much, with a public pledge to block any nominee for the new consumer agency until a list of legislative demands, which would greatly weaken the agency, are met. That those demands were debated and rejected by a bipartisan Congress last year is beside the point. The minority party is distorting the Senate confirmation process, mandated by the Constitution, to rewrite a law against the wishes of the American people.
“Why do Senate Republicans remain opposed to consumer protection despite national surveys showing 3-in-4 bipartisan voters support the new agency’s creation? Whatever the motivation, it appears to outweigh any concerns about protecting families buying homes, students borrowing for college, and servicemembers or older Americans falling prey to financial scams.
“This vocal minority opposed to strong consumer protection and helped by special interests have drummed up misleading claims to hide behind. They claim the CFPB Director will put the economy at risk – ignoring the effects of the foreclosure crisis, which was fueled by irresponsible and predatory lending. They claim the agency lacks accountability – ignoring the fact that it is bound by accountability measures comparable to or exceeding that of other independent financial regulators. And they claim restrictions on abusive financial products will hurt lenders – ignoring the damage those products inflicted on consumers tricked into signing unfair contracts filled with hidden fees and penalties.
“In reality the CFPB was created as an accountable yet independent regulator in bipartisan negotiations last year. Its mission is to protect consumers – by cracking down on predatory lenders and streamlining disclosures so families can make better informed financial choices. But until it has a confirmed director in place, the CFPB’s authority over nonbank financial institutions, like private student lenders and mortgage brokers, will be stifled. Every day Mr. Cordray’s confirmation is blocked, vital protections are delayed, millions of Americans – including servicemembers, veterans and older Americans - are left vulnerable, and the nation’s community banks and credit unions remain at a disadvantage to their less-regulated competitors.
“The question we consider today should not be whether the minority party can hijack this constitutional process and demand as ransom legislative changes that would hamstring the consumer agency. The question should be whether Mr. Cordray is qualified for the job. And I believe that Mr. Cordray is an outstanding candidate. For years Richard Cordray has worked tirelessly as a public servant. As Ohio’s Attorney General he aggressively pursued financial crimes by banks and mortgage firms, and won more than $2 billion in settlements for the State. And as Ohio’s first Solicitor, he argued cases before the Supreme Court to protect consumers and enhance the quality of our financial markets.
“American families paid a steep price for the financial crisis, battered by layoffs and foreclosures. Yet incredibly, many of the bad actors that contributed to the crisis remain poorly regulated and continue to lobby against tougher regulation. Congress created the CFPB to protect consumers and clean up the marketplace, but it needs a director. Richard Cordray has proven himself capable for the job, and there is no legitimate reason to block his confirmation.
“I urge my colleagues to reconsider their political game playing and do the right thing.
“Stop blocking Richard Cordray’s nomination and allow him to have an up or down vote.
“I yield the floor.”