Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., reminded housing analysts this week that politicians have no real friends or enemies. They only have opportunities.
The junior senator from Massachusetts made headlines by breaking with his party and endorsing the nomination of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
. The Hill confirmed
Brown's endorsement this week after The Boston Globe initially reported it.
Cordray is President Obama's nominee to lead the new federal regulator. The nomination was thrown into the Senate after the bureau's chief architect, Elizabeth Warren, decided to challenge Brown for his Senate seat.
While Brown is clearly signaling that he favors Cordray over his opponent by supporting Cordray's nomination, he misses the point of his party's fight.
Members of the GOP have said they will not endorse a director — whether it's Warren or Cordray or anyone else — because the agency is structurally flawed in that it empowers one director to serve as top cop over the entire lending industry.
Employing a single director without the oversight of a board or commission essentially gives one person final say on how consumers access and use financial products in America.
At least, that was the argument of CFPB critics when Warren was considered a shoe-in for the post. Those who see the subprime meltdown as a failure of other government agencies are justifiably wary of large bureaucratic structures, be they well intended or not.
Even Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who has publicly expressed admiration
for Cordray, admitted he could not support the appointment of a director until the bureau's structural issues are resolved.
"Not having a chairman confirmed is the only way the (Congress) can have a rethinking of the entire process, which is needed," Zoeller told HousingWire in September.
Brown's move is an odd one indeed. While Warren is his opponent, supporting Cordray — whether it's to spite his opponent or not — is inconsistent with the general argument of CFPB critics. The popularity contest of who leads the agency was never the issue. Should it be led by one person or a commission? Or is it needed at all?
The idea that the Cordray nomination somehow fixes what many considered structural flaws is sketchy at best. It only goes to show the real issues facing the housing industry are buried in the details. Meanwhile, politicians play on the surface of things, changing hats to win votes.
Since Cordray's nomination, critics of the CFPB's structural format have fallen silent. Apparently, there is a myth that playing musical chairs will silence voices of criticism. Then again, that doesn't appear to be a myth. It's a reality.
Write to Kerri Panchuk