The new federal agency designed to protect consumers from bad operators in the financial industry, like lenders and credit card companies, officially launched Thursday. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is described by its supporters as “a cop on the beat” for Americans as they do business. But Republicans in Congress say the Bureau has too much power. They want it to have more oversight, go to Congress for its funding, and have a board of directors rather than one head. Democrats are fighting those changes, including Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, who says it would weaken the agency to the point of being ineffective.
“They want to have a board run it, you want to create a disaster, there you go. Having an agency run by committee, is the most ridiculous thing, bureaucratic idea I’ve ever heard. Second if you listen to the financial round table folks, people in the industry, they’re not having a lot of complaints about the agency and what their steps are. They fear what might happen in the future. But we all fear – I fear walking in the street in Washington D.C. and getting hit by a car but that doesn’t stop me from leaving the building and walking home every day.”
Begich says already the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is causing mortgage and credit card companies to simplify their information for customers.
“I just looked at a document my mother just got for a purchase she’s doing, it was so easy to read! You could actually understand what the deal is. And I think… I don’t understand why people are so opposed to making sure consumers, taxpayers, know what the deal is they’re getting from their credit card company, mortgage company, knowing what the deal is in plain simple English.”
The new agency is part of the financial overhaul bill Congress passed last summer called Dodd-Frank. Only three Republicans voted for it in the Senate, and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski was not one of them. She agrees with most of her GOP colleagues that it creates additional bureaucracy and doesn’t have enough checks and balances. But unlike her fellow Republicans, Murkowski did not sign a letter this spring sent to President Obama threatening to block his nominee to run the agency. She was one of only two Republicans who refrained from signing. Murkowski says she agrees with the concerns raised in the letter, just not the threat attached to it.
“The language if you go back and read it was very, very limiting. It said we are not going to allow approval of anybody unless. I asked the rhetorical question, what if the President were to put somebody like a John Kyl in, for instance, I just pulled that name out of the air. But what if they were to put a person like him in. Are we still going to stand by our word that we are not going to allow this name to go forward? I wanted to evaluate the nominee. I don’t’ think it’s odd it just demonstrates once again I’m reading the fine print.”
The only other Senate Republican not to sign the letter was Scott Brown from the left-leaning state of Massachusetts, home to the woman who created the Agency, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, who’s considering running for Senate as a Democrat against him.
Enough other Republican Senators signed the letter to effectively block the confirmation of President Obama’s choice to run the Consumer Agency. This week he named to the job Richard Cordray, former Attorney General of Ohio, and champ of the game show Jeopardy, who’s been the consumer agency’s chief enforcement officer since early this year.