Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated his willingness to consider a change in senate rules that would allow confirmation of presidential appointees by simple majority. With little doubt, such a rule change would be controversial. But, it may be the only way to secure the appointment of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In an interview with Nevada Public Radio, Senator Reid said, "All within the sound of my voice, including the Democratic senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary."
I have personally been hopeful that Senator Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell would be able to find common ground that would rally the Senate to move forward with Mr. Cordray's confirmation. To exercise its full powers to set rules for credit reporting bureaus, payday lenders and debt collectors, the CFPB must have a director in place.
Payday lenders and debt collectors routinely flout the law. One can hardly find a single day without multiple news reports of payday lenders and debt collectors abusing or cheating consumers. There is hardly anyone in America who trusts these companies and yet they remain virtually unregulated and will remain so until the Senate acts.
The responsible oversight of these organizations is a necessity to insure that all consumers get a fair shake in their dealings with the payday loan and collection industry. The confirmation of Mr. Cordray will begin to level the playing field and guarantee every consumer fair treatment.
Cordray has already been serving as director under a recess appointment for the past year. During that time he has operated the Bureau in an open and honest manner. He has proven himself and earned the respect of industries the agency already regulates.
He is also one of the brightest men I have met in Washington. His credentials are impeccable. He is Phi Beta Kappa and was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University. Later, he was editor-in-chief of the University of Chicago Law Review and subsequently served as a law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Cordray has repeatedly emphasized the value honest businesses accrue when dishonest businesses are driven out of the marketplace. He has made good on his promise. The CFPB, charged by law to protect consumers, has an equally important role to protect honest businesses.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has claimed that the CFPB under a single director would have too much power. That is a bogus argument. The OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) has for the past 150 years operated under a single director. The OCC supervises more than 2,000 national banks and federal savings associations and about 50 federal branches and agencies of foreign banks in the United States. These institutions comprise nearly two-thirds of the assets of the commercial banking system. That is a pretty damn big job. And we entrust it to a single director.
Finally, he is no ideologue. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Cordray said that he does not "think about politics" while working at CFPB. "I'm in a job that doesn't mix with politics," he said. I think his track record has proven him to be true to his word.
It is vital that the Senate confirm Richard Cordray so the CFPB can get on with its important work. I cannot think of a better man for the job.
It is the right thing for America, for businesses and for consumers.