POLITICS
01/31/2013 04:39 pm ET | Updated Feb 01, 2013

Recess Appointment Ruling Prompts Bill To Defund Actions Of CFPB, NLRB Leaders

WASHINGTON -- Republican senators are moving to target the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as the National Labor Relations Board in the wake of a court ruling that found President Barack Obama's appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional.

A bill offered Thursday by Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) would withhold any funding for actions taken by the leaders whom Obama named to their posts more than a year ago.

The move comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declared unconstitutional the president's recess appointments of three NLRB members. The case did not focus on CFPB director Richard Cordray, who was appointed on the same day, Jan. 4, 2012, under the same circumstances.

The senators argue that since the appointments were ruled unconstitutional -- and that logically Cordray's must be as well -- none of the actions that the agencies have taken that are contingent upon those appointees should be funded.

The NLRB has not ceased its work, saying that it respectfully disagrees with the court, whose decision it expects to be overturned on appeal.

"As a cabinet member... it never occurred to me that I could ignore court decisions," said Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture. "The NLRB basically said to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 'Pound sand.'"

A spokesperson for the CFPB declined to address the bill, but noted: "The bureau is not a party in the recently decided case, and the court's ruling has no direct effect on the bureau. Going forward, we will continue our essential work to protect American consumers."

The appeals court focused only on one NLRB ruling, but the senators consider all of the board's decisions suspect, and their bill would essentially bar the board members from making any decisions while the case is being appealed. They've also called on the appointees to resign.

In the case of the CFPB, the measure would likely bar the bureau from pursuing any of the new powers granted under the Dodd-Frank Act that created it. It would likely still be able to oversee regulations that existed before Cordray was appointed.

"The president's gotten the country in some pretty hot water here in terms of these two areas. This is a mess," Johanns said.

The NLRB had been without its full slate of five board members for two years when Obama made his appointments while the Senate was in a pro forma session, not actually doing work during its traditional winter break but not technically in recess, either.

The board would have been unable to function, lacking even the three members required to reached a quorum, had the new members not been named.

The CFPB was barred from assuming many of its new powers without a director, and Republicans were blocking any nomination until they had won changes in the new agency, which they deem to be too powerful.

Alexander suggested the GOP would feel the same now and would try to push the desired changes to the bureau, although he had praise for Cordray.

The current bill has little chance of passage, but the senators noted it stands a better chance now that the Senate has changed its rules on filibusters, guaranteeing their side more opportunities to offer bills and amendments.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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