Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
nominee Richard Cordray stepped in front of the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday for a CFPB confirmation hearing that continued to highlight partisan differences over the CFPB and its single-director structure.
Whether a single director should lead the consumer agency remained a point of contention among committee members, who previously vowed to block any nominee if structural changes aren't made. Republicans seek a five-member bipartisan commission
to carry out the duties of a director — a change that the Obama administration has said would weaken the CFPB's powers.
Cordray assured Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) he would actively heed the concerns of community banks who fear cumbersome consumer protection rules will chase them out of the marketplace, and also said he didn't seek to inject himself into the legislative process concerning the single director vs. committee structure of oversight.
Republicans were sympathetic to Cordray's position, with Corker adding, "I am sorry that you are caught up in all of this. All of this would go away if the administration would just sit down and put appropriate checks and balances in place."
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said the structural issues need resolution before further discussions occur on Cordray.
"We do not believe we should consider any director until changes are made to the bureau," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). "I am sure you have a great background and have a fine family," Sen. Shelby said. "But you are caught between a big substantive debate and that is going to have to be resolved."
He added, "We advocated for a consumer agency, but we wanted accountability with it, and we still do."
Democrats fought for Cordray during the hearing, highlighting his background as a former Ohio attorney general who fought for consumer protection laws. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), the committee's chairman, contended "a vocal minority is playing games with the process" and holding everyone hostage.
The bureau officially opened July 21 without a permanent director. Cordray currently serves as the bureau’s enforcement chief.
In the Q&A session, Sen. Corker asked Cordray about strategic defaults and how he views homeowners who use foreclosure as a strategy to escape underwater mortgages.
"That's part of the balance that has to be drawn," Cordray said. "I am someone who tries to pay my credit card balances on time. I do not want to be billed for the problems of others."
Corker also addressed concerns about checks and balances when it comes to CFPB rulemaking. Corker pointed out that unless the CFPB creates a rule that threatens the stability of the financial system, the CFPB will not be overruled.
"That's a pretty high threshold is it not?" Corker asked. Cordray said it was not inappropriate because the bureau will be working with other agencies to make sense of the new rules and processes.
Write to: Kerri Panchuk