GOP senators like Ohioan Cordray, but hate the bureau he runs

Republicans on the Banking Committee hate the structure of the bureau. They want it headed by a board, not one director, and they want it subject to the congressional appropriations process. Democrats say Cordray has proven his mettle in the first year on the job and deserves a second year at the helm.

It’s a standoff, and there’s no endgame in sight.

“I think you have done a wonderful job so far in carrying out your duties,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who nonetheless opposes Cordray’s nomination.

Coburn and 42 other Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Barack Obama demanding changes to the agency before they’ll let Cordray’s nomination go through. A 44th, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, has urged Cordray to change the agency from within in order to earn his support. Cordray needs 60 Senate votes in order to have his nomination voted on under Senate rules.

Republicans are upset that Obama appointed Cordray during a controversial “recess” appointment. In January, a federal appeals court ruled that Obama violated the Constitution when he appointed three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board as recess appointments. Republicans argue that because Cordray was appointed on that same day, his appointment, too, is unconstitutional.

“I continue to believe that the recess appointment was unconstitutional,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.

Others defended Cordray. Weighing in from the House, Columbus-area Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, sent a letter to the committee saying that while he has reservations about the structure of the agency, he believes Cordray is “an individual who listens to your opinion and seeks mutually acceptable solutions.”

“Despite the constitutionally questionable method by which he came to this position, of all the nominees President Obama could now select for this position, Rich Cordray is one of the few who might be able to bridge the policy differences,” Stivers wrote.

If he isn’t confirmed, Cordray is considered a possible Democratic opponent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2014. The Senate Banking Committee has yet to schedule a vote on his nomination. His current term expires at the end of this year.

Senate Republican opposition is maddening to Democrats, who argue that Cordray has done a good job advocating for consumers during his first year at the helm of the agency and has been accessible to Congress. “You’ve been an open book,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who came up with the idea of the agency when she was a Harvard professor.

She called filibuster threats “an attempt to weaken a consumer agency,” and said the threat against his nomination was “bad for consumers, bad for small banks, bad for credit unions, bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who introduced Cordray, argued that Congress passed the law creating the agency in 2010, and it’s time to accept that it’s here “Now is the time to consider Rich Cordray’s qualifications, not keep fighting old political battles,” he said.

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