The White House on Wednesday rolled out a bipartisan group of officials -- including two Republican attorneys general who oppose the administration's health care law -- to support its embattled nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Senate Republicans despise nearly as much as the president's health care law.
Speaking to reporters with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney by his side, Treasury official Neil Wolin said the confirmation of Richard Cordray to be the first head of the controversial bureau created out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law is critical to helping Americans get smart before they get caught in debt from traditional and nontraditional financial institutions.
Senate Republicans continue "to leave the door wide open for the same abuses that occurred prior to, and were an important cause of the financial crisis that we are still feeling the effects of. Without a director, the CFPB cannot oversee payday lenders, private student loan providers, and other non-bank lenders, including certain mortgage originators and servicers, as well as debt collectors and credit reporting agencies. This non-bank sector has been the source of some of the most harmful, deceptive, unfair and predatory lending practices. And until a director is confirmed, these institutions will operate without supervision and oversight, just like before the crisis," he said.
Carney said dozens of officials from both sides of the aisle were joining to put pressure on Senate Republicans, who have refused to approve a nominee until statutes governing the bureau are changed. Already, Senate Republicans have succeeded in preventing President Obama's first nominee, Elizabeth Warren, from confirmation to run the agency that she helped design. The vote for Cordray is now scheduled for Thursday.
"This is not an exercise designed for anything but to put pressure on the Senate to do the right thing and it's time for obstructionist behavior to stop," Carney said.
Asked if this was just an exercise of holding Republican feet to the fire, the spokesman replied, "No, I think politics is a wonderful thing and sometimes opinions change."
Among the Republican state officials offering their support to the White House were Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Both are signatories to the Florida-based challenge to the health care law that now awaits a Supreme Court hearing.
The White House noted that it would be making an aggressive push in states where it thought senators could be pressured but despite the localized assault, GOP senators say they are holding firm to their opposition, which they acknowledge is not related to Cordray's qualifications.
"This has nothing to do with Mr. Cordray," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday. "He is clearly qualified with a good reputation. Clearly this has everything to do with accountability."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, echoed that idea.
"It's about a process that's out of control," he said.
Asked if Cordray's nomination does not go through, will the president consider recess appointment, Wolin said it's not for him to speculate what comes after the vote.