WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of 37 attorneys general publicly gave their support to President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray, whose appointment is currently being held up by Senate Republicans.
"We are Attorneys General from across the country who represent a wide range of political interests. Some of us may disagree with aspects of the Dodd-Frank legislation. But we are united in our belief that Mr. Cordray is very well qualified to carry out the responsibilities of this position," wrote the group of attorneys general, which includes eight Republicans, in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, was nominated by Obama in July. In September, he received a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. He was approved to move on to the full Senate earlier this month by a 12-10 committee vote.
But Cordray's nomination has stalled -- for reasons completely unrelated to his own personal merits. Forty-four Republicans have vowed to block any candidate until the Obama administration completely restructures the consumer protection agency.
"Discussion of any nominee's qualifications to run this bureaucracy are premature until President Obama stops ignoring Republicans' calls to make it accountable to their elected representatives," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Banking Committee, in a statement to The Huffington Post.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) joined the White House in a press call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon to make the case for Cordray.
Shurtleff said coordination between the attorneys general and the federal government is critical, a point driven home for him by the economic injustice protests around the country.
"I had a personal experience with that this past weekend, as I was invited down to meet with our Occupy Salt Like City group at their encampment," said Shurtleff. "I spent three hours there -- just there to listen and learn their concerns. It was made very [clear] to me the need, obviously, for ongoing collaborative effort between attorneys general and the federal government, as we work now on mortgage foreclosure efforts."
"It's important to us, as AGs, to lend our support [and to] let Congress know and the Senate that moving forward, we need to work with the federal government," added Shurtleff. "We need to work collaboratively with the CFPB, and we need Rich Cordray in there, who not only understands these things on a national basis, but knows us, knows how to work with us and knows the structure and organization of our offices.
On the call on Tuesday, Brian Deese, deputy director of the administration's National Economic Council, said that while the CFPB has been able to move forward pending Cordray's confirmation, its hands are still tied until there is a confirmed director.
"The agency has already shown in just a short of period of time that in addition to building an institution and bringing in the people of the caliber of Richard Cordray and Raj Date, it can start the important work that it will be able to follow through on," Deese said.
"The key issue with respect to a confirmed director -- there's a whole set of responsibilities, particularly in respect to the non-bank financial sector, where until a director is in place ... the full authorities that were contemplated in the Wall Street reform act, can't be implemented."
Elizabeth Warren, the former Harvard law professor who was the architect of the agency, stepped down in July and is now running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Progressives had pushed the Obama administration to give her a recess nomination, but she faced intense hostility and opposition from Republican senators.
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