Las Vegas Sun

August 19, 2019

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Sun Editorial:

Republican games on confirmation harm consumer protection in U.S.

The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday held a confirmation hearing for Richard Cordray, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Cordray was met cordially by Republicans on the committee but they essentially told him his nomination wasn’t going anywhere.

It’s not that Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, is a bad nominee. The Republicans just don’t want any nominee. Republicans are objecting to the law that created the new agency, and in May, 44 Senate Republicans said they would filibuster any nomination unless there were major changes to the law.

The Republican approach to Cordray’s confirmation hearing was to bash the law. As the Times reported, Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the committee, didn’t even mention Cordray in his five-minute opening statement.

By blocking the nomination, Republicans are preventing the new agency from doing much of what it was created to do. The law doesn’t allow the agency to use some of its broad powers without a director. Thus, stalling the nomination stalls new regulation and oversight.

Republicans are trying to protect their friends on Wall Street and the banking industry, who fear new regulatory oversight and have fought the new law. However, in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown, it became painfully obvious that federal regulators failed — in part because they didn’t have the ability or authority to properly oversee the financial markets. The result has been the disastrous economic downturn.

The new agency is supposed to protect consumers from that kind of mess again, but it will remain toothless as long as Republicans can keep blocking the nomination.

This use of the confirmation process to try to change the law is stunning. The Senate has seen presidential nominations from both parties held up by senators trying to gain some political leverage, but this may be unprecedented. The Republicans couldn’t stop the bill that created the consumer protection agency from becoming law, so they are trying to pervert the confirmation process to try to force changes to a law that was legally passed, thus stopping the agency from doing the work it is obligated to do.

That certainly can’t be what the framers of the Constitution intended when they added the provision that gives the Senate power to confirm presidential nominations. We can only imagine the complaints that would be stirred up by the Tea Party if Democrats tried to do something similar.

This is ridiculous. The Senate Republicans have gone to extraordinary lengths just to protect the banks instead of working Americans.

Republicans have complained in the past when presidential nominations were held up because of what they perceived as politics and called for an up-or-down vote on the nominee. This would be a great time for them to take their own advice to heart.

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