The bad news is, Elizabeth Warren has not been nominated to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The good news is, President Obama has nominated an excellent official, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray — and we probably haven’t heard the last of Warren.
Mr. Cordray came to national attention for his aggressive investigations of mortgage foreclosure practices while he was attorney general. He is already an employee of the watchdog agency, which starts formal operations on Thursday, as the leader of its enforcement division.
“Richard Cordray has spent his career advocating for middle-class families, from his tenure as Ohio’s attorney general to his most recent role as heading up the enforcement division at the C.F.P.B. and looking out for ordinary people in our financial system,” Mr. Obama said in a written statement.
Of course, choosing a strong nominee is encouraging — by backing Cordray, the president is clearly siding with consumers and their leading advocates — but the political realities on Capitol Hill remain ridiculous. Senate Republicans had vowed to kill Warren’s nomination under any circumstances, and the likelihood of finding 60 votes was effectively nonexistent. Obama could consider a recess appointment, but Republicans haven’t allowed any recesses to occur.
But the GOP’s problem wasn’t with Warren alone. The party believes the very existence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is outrageous.
To briefly recap, the CFPB is a pretty terrific idea. The whole point is to have a separate agency that would look out for our interests — banks and other financial institutions have had little oversight when it comes to consumer credit and fees, and the CFPB will exist to serve as our advocates. Warren has compared it to having a “cop on the beat.”
Republicans, as is their wont, intend to make it impossible for that cop to exist. They committed to blocking a vote on Warren, and it’s a certainty that Cordray will meet the same fate. With no director, the CFPB will not be able to exercise its full powers.
That said, Cordray is a fine choice, and quickly received Warren’s enthusiastic backing. If we can’t have her at this post, her enforcement deputy is the next best option. Cordray’s record in Ohio — featuring strict accountability for financial and insurance companies — offers hope for those who take consumer advocacy seriously.
As for Warren, there have been quite a few hints recently that the Harvard scholar is interested in running for the U.S. Senate next year, eyeing the race against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Democratic leaders have been urging her to run, and as of last week, Warren certainly seemed to be leaning in that direction.
If Warren runs and beats Brown next year, I wonder how much Senate Republicans will come to regret the decision to block her CFPB prospects?