Senate Democrats Tuesday vowed to aggressively fight any plans to fire former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the nation’s top consumer watchdog.
Under the 2010 law that created his agency, Cordray is supposed to remain director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through July 2018. But a spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump last week said Trump has interviewed Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer for the job.
Under current law, Trump can only replace Cordray by firing him for cause. Neugebauer has been a consistent and ardent critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, is considered a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.
Many Republicans opposed the creation of the consumer protection bureau from the beginning, and a court ruling in October found the structure of the agency is unconstitutional because the president of the United States has limited power to dismiss the director.
But it’s unclear if that ruling provides Trump with more standing to dismiss the director. The agency has asked the full court of appeals to consider the case.
In a conference call Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., expressed alarm about reports that Trump might fire Cordray. No agency director in the last century has been fired for cause, she said while lauding Cordray’s accomplishments.
“Rich Cordray has been a successful leader of that agency,” said Warren, who helped create the agency.
The bureau, created under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law in the wake of the financial meltdown, aims to enforce rules on consumer finance markets, including credit card agencies, banks and payday lenders. Under Cordray’s leadership, it has returned some $12 billion to 29 million Americans thanks to enforcement against debt collectors, for-profit schools and payday lenders. More recently, the agency fined Wells Fargo $100 million for opening fraudulent accounts.
Republicans have long said the agency has too much power and should be operated by a commission rather than a single director.
In early January, Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, sent a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence urging the administration to fire Cordray. “It’s time to fire King Richard,” said Sasse.
But Brown, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, said firing Cordray would send a message to Americans that Trump’s promises to drain the swamp had been replaced with actions aimed at protecting Wall Street.
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