WASHINGTON, May 5 (By Kevin Drawbaugh) - Forty-four U.S. Republican senators vowed on Thursday to vote against any White House nominee to head a new consumer watchdog agency without fundamental changes to how it is structured.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, set to open its doors in July, was created by 2010's Dodd-Frank legislation as part of that law's response to the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
President Barack Obama has not yet nominated a director for it, though the front-runner has long been seen as Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken champion of financial consumer rights who is widely reviled in the banking industry.
The bureau is meant to protect consumers from abusive and misleading mortgages and credit cards, among other financial products and services. Its creation has been opposed since 2009 by Republicans and financial industry interests.
Obama is considering whether to nominate Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who is now working as an administration adviser to help set up the bureau.
The Republicans' demands set up a potentially fierce debate in the Senate over the CFPB, while also perhaps tempting the Obama administration to sidestep a fight by appointing a director while the Senate is in recess.
A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday backed a bill to weaken the CFPB by having it run by a five-member board, not a single director, and making it easier for other financial regulators to block its rules. [ID:nN04226709]
The senators, including Richard Shelby, called for similar changes, as well as for requiring the bureau to ask Congress for a budget each year rather than getting it directly from the Federal Reserve. They made their demands in a letter to Obama, released with their statement.
"The bureau, as currently structured, lacks any semblance of the checks and balances inherent in the Constitution.
Everyone supports consumer protection, but we should never entrust a single person with this much power and public
money," Shelby said in a statement.
On the possibility of a recess appointment, he said, "Senate confirmation is about accountability and giving the American people a voice in the process. I would hope the president won't silence the people's voice."
Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran said he has filed legislation that would replace the CFPB director with a board and subject the agency to the budget appropriations process.
The consumer protection bureau declined to comment. (Additional reporting by Dave Clarke and Tom Ferraro; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
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