Atkins: House GOP turns up heat on Elizabeth Warren’s consumer bureau
WASHINGTON — GOP lawmakers yesterday blasted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the embattled brainchild of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — demanding that its director be fired as a widening partisan battle over the agency rages in Congress and in court.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, opened an oversight hearing by telling CFPB Director Richard Cordray: “I believe the president is clearly justified in dismissing you, and I call upon the president yet again to do just that, and to do it immediately.”
Hensarling and other lawmakers accused Cordray of failed leadership at an agency they said stifles business and is slow to respond to actual wrongdoing. The hearing comes as a federal appellate court in Washington reconsiders a ruling last year that the structure of the agency — which is headed by a director who can only be removed by the president for cause — is unconstitutional.
“You have a rotting agency,” said Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc., referring to 2014 congressional testimony by CFPB employees claiming racial and sex discrimination and retaliation.
“I think Democrats even in Ohio would be aghast at what has happened at the CFPB,” Duffy said, without allowing Cordray time to respond. Cordray, whose term ends next year, is rumored to be mulling a 2018 run for governor in Ohio.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., angrily accused Cordray of dragging his feet in probing claims of fraudulent practices at Wells Fargo, which resulted in the bank paying $185 million in fines last year. She noted that the CFPB’s involvement came after news reports and a separate probe by Los Angeles officials.
“The CFPB was asleep at the wheel — asleep at the wheel, Director Cordray — under your leadership!” Wagner said.
Committee Democrats, including Bay State Reps. Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano, defended Cordray. “Mr. Cordray, boy, they really hate you, don’t they?” Capuano said after Wagner’s questioning, drawing laughter.
“They don’t want to give us any credit for anything good that we do,” Cordray said. “I understand that, that’s part of the game.”
After the hearing, Warren defended Cordray and the agency.
“The CFPB has been a tough watchdog for consumers, forcing large financial institutions to return more than $12 billion directly to people they cheated,” Warren told the Herald. “The agency is getting results, so it’s no surprise Wall Street banks and their Republican friends in Congress want to weaken the agency and launch baseless attacks against Director Cordray.”