When the U.S. Senate finally confirmed Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it was a major victory for U.S. Consumers. For two years, a bloc of Senate Republicans held up Cordray’s confirmation with a filibuster threat based, not on their dislike of Cordray, nor on his qualifications, but instead on their opposition to the very consumer protection agency he was nominated to lead. Sen. Tom Coburn – one of the obstructionists – even praised Cordray during his nomination hearing earlier this year, when he said: “I think you have done a wonderful job so far in carrying out your duties.”
Grassroots pressure from activists all around the country, led by Public Citizen, proved to be too much for this obstructionist bloc. The American people refused to let up in calling for Cordray’s confirmation. Seventeen Senate Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, finally broke the obstructionist blockade and voted to allow Cordray to come up for a floor vote. In the end, 12 Republicans joined the 54 Democrats in voting for Cordray’s confirmation. Now that Cordray is confirmed, he can serve as director for a full term of five years starting last month.
The CFPB, under Cordray, can do a whole lot of good for consumers in five years. It was just three years ago when President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB and initiated numerous other financial reforms into law.
Under Cordray, who was acting under an interim appointment, the CFPB has been unafraid to flex its regulatory muscle and intervene to stop the unfair and reckless practices of corporate financial interests. In just two years, the CFPB has made several important contributions to the lives of average Americans. For example, it has:
• Returned nearly half a billion dollars to consumers cheated by credit card companies;
• Moved to end the era of mortgages designed to rake in up-front fees before they self-destruct;
• Stood up for students and families trapped in high-cost private education loans;
• Protected military families against illegal foreclosures and deceptive lending practices; and
• Begun to investigate forced arbitration clauses in contracts for consumer financial products or services.
The American people clearly support efforts to protect consumers from abusive practices by financial institutions, and by moving forward with Cordray’s nomination, and confirming him, the Senate has now allowed the CFPB to do its job. Of course, Wall Street’s greediest and most predatory offenders won’t pick up and just go away. Bank lobbyists will “lick their wounds” and move on to the next battle. It’s up to the American people – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – to make sure that the CFPB remains intact and able to carry out its very badly needed responsibilities.
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