Anyone who has lost a home to foreclosure, or who cringes every month when the bill for a credit card that once had favorable terms until that sky-high interest rate kicked in arrives, may have felt exploited all over again when Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to confirm Richard Cordray, President Obama’s choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
The vote was seven short of the 60 needed, which Obama decried as making “absolutely no sense.” Without a director, the agency is unable to fulfill its mission to prevent predatory financial services providers from taking advantage of consumers. Why wouldn’t Republicans want to ensure that consumers are treated fairly, he asked.
“This individual's job is to make sure that individual consumers are protected, everybody from seniors, to young people who are looking for student loans, to members of our armed services, who were probably more vulnerable than just about anybody when it comes to unscrupulous financial practices,” Obama said during a press conference after the vote.
Cordray is the second nominee that Republicans have rejected, but Obama said he's not giving up. He said that he's considering other ways to put Cordray in place, including a recess appointment during the upcoming holidays.
“I will not take any options off the table when it comes to getting Richard Cordray in as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Obama said. “The bottom line is we’re going to look at all of our options. My hope and expectation is Republicans who blocked this nomination will come to their senses.”
Congressional Black Caucus members, several of whom pushed for Cordray's confirmation at a press conference this week, expressed disappointment over the inability to get a director in place in an agency that could be vitally important to African-Americans who need to become more financially literate. California Rep. Maxine Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, called the Senate's failure to confirm a director a slap in the face to the president and the American public.
"African-Americans consumers are the victims of every scheme you can think of, whether it's payday loans, rent-to-own or other schemes where they prey on poor people who have few resources and are desperate. We need protection more than anybody else. We're losing the benefit of our limited incomes by having it disproportionately ripped off in too-high interest rates and all of that, so we're going to be harmed even more if we don't get the CPFB up and running," she told BET.com.
Like Waters, CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (Missouri) chocks the failure up to politics as usual.
"This disappointment is proceded by a long history of rejection where politics trumps legislative productivity from the American Jobs Act to the extension of current federal unemployment insurance programs through 2012," he said.
Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (South Carolina) said that with each passing day ordinary Americans are seeing exactly who congressional Republicans care most about, and it's not them.
"All of this is about protecting the extremely wealthy in this country, as well as the powers that be, against middle income, ordinary citizens who really need somebody in government looking out for their interests," Clyburn said.
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)