No way are the Republicans going to stop trying to defang the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Adam Serwer reports at Mother Jones:
A little more than a week after Senate Democrats decided not to weaken the filibuster, Republicans are vowing to filibuster President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless its powers are reduced, Reuters reports….
Senate Republicans want three big changes before they’ll stop blocking Cordray. First, they want the CPFB to be by Congress rather than the Federal Reserve. Subjecting the bureau to the congressional appropriations process would compromise its political independence. Second, Republicans want the range of financial institutions the bureau has authority to regulate narrowed. This would leave unsupervised some of the problematic institutions the bureau was created to regulate. The GOP also wants to replace the single director with a board of directors, which would hamper the ability of the bureau to make decisions. Finally, the GOP is demanding that other bank regulators—the same ones who failed to prevent the 2008 financial meltdown—be allowed to chaperone the CFPB by “verifying” that its rules “would not harm the safety and soundness of banks.” This would let regulators who turned a blind eye to exploitative practices in the past because they were profitable tell the CFPB what to do—and the more different regulators have to approve of a rule, the more convoluted and less effective it is likely to be.
Blocking Cordray could leave the CPFB without most of its powers to regulate the very financial institutions whose practices helped lead the country into near-economic collapse in 2008. That’s just how Republicans want it. Having failed to prevent the financial regulation law from being passed, they are now seeking to nullify it through procedural extortion.
Dave Weigel at Slate fisks the GOP argument, such as it is, and finishes:
… This is cant, but previous Republican ideas, like attorney-client privilege for bureau research, fit into this rubric and would have—sensing a pattern now—weakened the bureau. But the entire premise of the letter is flawed. How do you pass these reforms, given that Democrats control the Senate? You don’t. How do you stop the White House from doing another end-run around the Senate and appointing a new director? You can’t. But you can controversialize the CFPB by forcing the president to staff it via “tyrannical” means. And given that Obama’s won two presidential elections, and that the last blocked CFPB director has won a Senate election, denying a mandate takes innovative thinking.
Alex Pareene, at Salon, thinks Harry Reid should get some of the blame as well:
It was very fitting that pretty much immediately after Harry Reid ended the possibility of filibuster reform in the more-sclerotic-than-ever U.S. Senate, a Republican appointee-run court effectively killed the recess appointment. Reid cut a “deal” on filibusters that actually strengthened the 60-vote threshold, by legitimizing what had been widely seen by non-senators as unprecedented abuse of Senate rules. All the deal does is speed up the process of breaking a filibuster with 60 votes, making the act of forcing a 60-vote threshold on all Senate business — something that rapidly became the new normal — even more painless than it was before….
In other words, 43 Republicans — not a majority of the Senate, at all — have pledged to block the appointment of someone they have no real issue with, because they are demanding the right to change the structure of the agency entirely before they will allow it to function. A small minority in one of America’s two congressional bodies is demanding the right to fundamentally rewrite, on their own terms, a law passed by both houses and signed by the president, because they really dislike it. That’s not normal, “what are you gonna do?” politics. That’s setting an insane precedent…
The idea of changing Senate rules by simple majority vote is usually referred to as “the nuclear option,” because forcing the Senate to operate as nearly all other legislative bodies in the world do is considered an act of provocation so extreme that it would force the minority to retaliate by any means necessary. But they would actually have to think pretty creatively to find new ways of totally obstructing all Senate business, because right now they are doing a very good job obstructing most of it, as their response to the Democrats’ shamelessly “winning elections” and “attempting to pass legislation and appoint judges and regulators.” While forcing a Senate rules change has a nickname highlighting how incredibly unprecedented it would be, there is not yet a press-friendly term for the Senate minority trying to force legislation to be rewritten to its specifications by blocking an agency from functioning until they get their way, so maybe someone should get on that so people on “Meet the Press” care.