Obama sidesteps GOP, appoints head of consumer agency
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - President Barack Obama is forcing through a controversial nomination while Senate Republicans who blocked a vote on it are in recess.
A month after Republicans blocked a vote on the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to the head of a federal consumer protection agency, Obama announced his intent to appoint Cordray to the post. In doing this during a recess for lawmakers, it eliminates the need for Senate approval.
"Unfortunately, Republicans in the Senate blocked his confirmation," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. "They refused to let the Senate go forward with an up or down vote.
"It's not because Republicans think Cordray isn't qualified for the job, they simply believe that the American public doesn't need a watchdog at all. Well, we disagree."
On Dec. 8, 45 Republicans voted against ending the debate over Cordray's nomination, meaning Democrats fell seven short of the 60 needed to do so. Obama appointed Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the summer.
The CFPB was created by the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul and is tasked with regulating consumer financial products. Republicans want changes made to the bureau before a director is picked, while the American Tort Reform Association criticized the relationship Cordray built with private attorneys while Ohio AG.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in October that Obama and Senate Democrats have not tried to work with Republicans on improving the accountability of the bureau.
"No nominee for the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection should receive consideration until the Democrats are ready to stop playing politics and work with us to make the Bureau accountable," Shelby said after the Banking Committee approved Cordray. "It's their choice."
In November 2010, Cordray lost to former Lt. Gov. and U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican, in the state attorney general race. He had been elected to the post in November 2008 to serve the remainder of the term held by the previous attorney general, Marc Dann. Dann had resigned in May 2008 amid a sex scandal.
Prior to being attorney general, Cordray served as the Ohio State Treasurer and as treasurer of Franklin County, Ohio. He also served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives and as the state's first solicitor.
In addition to Republicans, the American Tort Reform Association also has said it is skeptical of Cordray's nomination to the post.
ATRA questions his relationships with private attorneys he hired to pursue state lawsuits while serving as attorney general.
"Mr. Cordray appears to share CFPB architect Elizabeth Warren's often voiced belief that litigation is a perfectly legitimate means by which to craft public policy, even though it sidesteps duly elected lawmakers and executives, and even though it lacks proper transparency," ATRA President Tiger Joyce said.
Private attorneys hired by Cordray to sue the three major credit rating agencies are currently appealing a ruling against them. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five public pension funds, claim $457 million in losses and allege the agencies helped cause the collapse of the housing and credit markets.
The private firms hired by Cordray for the lawsuit were: Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein of New York; Entwistle & Capucci of New York; and Schottenstein Zox & Dunn of Columbus.
Employees of the Lieff firm gave $50,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party in 2008. The party gave Cordray more than $1.8 million for his campaign that year. The Schottenstein firm gave $23,500 to Cordray from 2008-10.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.