Two months after the Senate Banking Committee approved Richard Cordray as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Senate leadership brought the nomination to the floor this morning. Republicans refused to allow a vote.

The Senate blocked confirmation on Thursday of Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general picked by President Obama to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they needed in a procedural vote to move forward with the nomination of Cordray. Senate Republicans had spoken against the nomination, reflecting their concerns about the creation of the bureau, which was established in last year’s Wall Street reform bill.

Fifty-three senators voted for Cordray, while 45 — all Republicans — voted against ending debate on his nomination. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) voted for Cordray, and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) voted present.

For the record, Snowe’s “present” had the same practical effect as voting “no.”

It’s hard to overstate how outrageous today’s filibuster really is.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently explained, “Cordray’s record as attorney general of Ohio puts him in a small group of people able to act effectively to deal with the mortgage crisis. No one has raised any questions about his intelligence, integrity or dedication. Yet his nomination will not even be fairly considered by the full Senate. Forty-four Republicans have announced that in disregard of their constitutional duty to consider nominations on the merits. They will not confirm anyone until the Senate majority reverses itself to once again put bank regulators in a position to overrule virtually all of the policies that would be set by the consumer agency.”

Quite right. Congress passed legislation creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the president signed it into law. Republicans are now saying they’ll allow the agency to function, but not until Democrats agree to weaken the law in ways the financial industry likes.

It’s all part of the normalization of extortion politics. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and might not work. Instead, we see the latest in a series of GOP extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to meet its legal mandate.

And in this case, the bureau’s mandate involves protecting American consumers against possible abuses. Republicans don’t want Americans to have those protections, and would prefer to let the free market do as it will, no matter how often or how severe the public gets screwed.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) checked with the Senate Historian’s office this week, and found that this is the first time in history that a party has blocked a qualified nominee solely because it does not like the existence of the agency the nominee was selected to lead.

In terms of a possible recourse, the White House has limited options, but is not completely without alternatives. More on that later this afternoon.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.