News & Resources

Battle rages on over Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director

May 24, 2011 Todd Milner

With two months to go before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is officially launched in July, Congress is considering three bills that may limit the agency's power before it has the chance to pass its first rule. The bureau, created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is intended to provide stronger enforcement of the federal laws and regulations governing consumer protection in the U.S. In its present form, it has the power to review regulations for everything from credit reports to high-cost loans. The first bill would create a bipartisan commission to oversee the agency, and the second would make it easier for regulators to veto rules written by the agency. The third would require the CFPB's director, Elizabeth Warren, to be officially confirmed by the Senate before the agency is granted independence. President Barack Obama appointed Warren - a Harvard University law professor and a staunch critic of the financial services industry - as a special assistant to the Treasury Secretary in order to avoid going through the Senate. Additionally, the House Agriculture Committee is expected to mark up a bill that would lead to an 18-month delay on implementing new financial derivative regulations. In a letter to the president earlier this month, 44 Republican senators said they objected to the "unfettered [and] unchecked authority" potentially awarded to Warren as bureau director. However, Warren claimed their protests were calculated to reduce the reach and effectiveness of the agency. "Many in Congress have made clear their intention to defund, delay and defang the consumer agency before it can help one family," Warren said in a statement. "These bills are about preventing the CFPB from operating effectively - a dangerous game to play in light of recent lessons in the marketplace and how quickly financial threats to consumers emerge." Republicans in the Senate have enough votes to block an agency director from being nominated, which may lead to the White House having to appoint a temporary director during the upcoming congressional recess, according to MSNBC. Until this occurs, consumer lending statutes must remain under the jurisdiction of the federal agencies they are currently monitored by.