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Politics & Money

Reform opponents worry House measure guts CFPB

Bureau supporters speak out

The House of Representatives passed the massive overhaul bill for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday, and now supporters of the embattled agency are starting to speak out.

Ten House Democrats joined 222 Republicans to pass the Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Improvement Act, a reform measure that would replace the single CFPB director with a five-member commission appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, bring its budget under Congressional control, and provide more oversight for the bureau, which is currently under the aegis of the Federal Reserve.

The measure now goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate where it faces an uphill battle and a veto threat from the White House.

But before then, supporters of the CFPB as it exists will be rising up, and the first is the Center for Responsible Lending.

Gary Kalman, executive vice president for the CLR, said the reform bill will gut the ability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to issue rules and enforce the laws that protect consumers against deceptive practices by banks and other financial service providers.

“HR 3193 is a blatant attempt to undermine this successful new consumer watchdog,” Kalman said. “In its three years of existence, the CFPB has returned over $750 million to consumers. The agency has mandated an addition $2 billion in foreclosure relief and fined entities that violated consumer laws $81.5 million.”

It’s not entirely accurate that the CFPB has returned money to consumers, but rather to state governments and attorneys general, some of which actually goes to consumers.

And there are questions as to whether the CFPB’s actions actually benefit consumers as claimed.

“The agency is leading groundbreaking efforts to clean up unfair and abusive practices in the financial services industry, secure the country’s safe financial future, and protect the pocketbooks of Americans,” Kalman said.

Kalman charges that replacing the single CFPB director with a commission whose members are chosen by party leaders is a recipe for gridlock, rather than accountability and diversity.

He also said that the bill would weaken the authority of the consumer bureau by making it easier for an outside council to overturn consumer protection rules – an appeals process the bill includes that supporters say is badly needed.

While the bill’s future is uncertain, one ranking House Financial Services Committee member said that the House majority party only wants to improve the CFPB, not emasculate it.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W. Va., said that the reform bill does not weaken the CFPB’s mission or tools.

“None of this bill undoes any of the bureau’s ability to undo deceptive and abusive practices,” Capito said Thursday.

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