WASHINGTON -- Bucking his party's leadership, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) Wednesday expressed his support for President Obama's decision to name Richard Cordray head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a recess appointment that evaded a Republican blockade of the nomination.
Senate Republicans had vowed to stop Cordray's appointment until Obama agreed to water down the authority of the new watchdog agency. To stop him from using the constitutional option of a recess appointment while the Senate was adjourned, they've been holding "pro forma" sessions where no business is done, but the chamber is technically working.
GOP leaders bitterly accused the president of arrogance and overreach. But Brown, facing a tough election challenge from the architect of the CFPB, Elizabeth Warren, decided that their actions were the bigger problem.
"I support President Obama's appointment today of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB," Brown said in a statement. "I believe he is the right person to lead the agency and help protect consumers from fraud and scams."
"While I would have strongly preferred that it go through the normal confirmation process, unfortunately the system is completely broken," Brown added. "If we're going to make progress as a nation, both parties in Washington need to work together to end the procedural gridlock and hyper-partisanship."
Brown's statement followed -- and echoed -- that of Warren, who quickly praised Obama, although he had declined to appoint her in a similar manner after she launched the new agency.
"Republicans never had any substantive objections to Mr. Cordray, the very qualified former Attorney General of Ohio," Warren said. "Instead, Senate Republicans blocked a confirmation vote for anyone to head up the consumer agency.
"The President made every effort to present a candidate for a Senate vote, but he was right not to let Senate Republicans block full implementation of the consumer agency," Warren added. "Senate Republicans will surely complain about the recess appointment, but their refusal to allow an up or down vote on Cordray's nomination is just another example of the political games in Washington that must end."
Brown's move shows the tough spot Warren has placed him in -- and just how far away from the right he has had to shift since she entered the race.
When the idea of naming a CFPB head during a recess first arose during the summer before last, Brown opposed it, even though he had backed the agency in the past. At the time, he and Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine declared, "We firmly believe the United States Senate’s responsibilities in confirming the head of the CFPB are paramount."
Democrats, unimpressed by Brown's move, were quick to label him a craven opportunist rather than a principled independent. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter called it "a shameless political maneuver from a desperate politician.”