Sen. Warren Fights for Consumer Bureau

Washington — Four years ago, Elizabeth Warren was a Harvard Law School professor crusading for the creation of a consumer protection agency to police the abusive practices that harmed millions of Americans during the financial crisis.

Now that Warren has taken office as a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, she is fighting from inside the system to keep the upstart Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s power intact as her Republican colleagues vow to block the confirmation of CFPB director Richard Cordray.

Senate Republicans are urging President Obama to alter the structure of the bureau by subjecting it to annual appropriations and installing a five-member board for greater transparency and accountability. The White House, however, insists that the bureau remain an independent regulator. Consumer groups say the GOP’s structural argument is an attempt to destroy the agency, after a failed campaign against its creation.

Working alongside Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., Warren held news conferences Wednesday and Thursday calling on Republicans to bring Cordray’s confirmation to a vote. In response to GOP claims that the bureau operates without controls, the senators noted that CFPB can be overruled by the Financial Stability Oversight Council and has a statutory cap on its funding. “It is past time for an up-or-down vote,” Warren said Thursday. “The financial industry needs certainty, and families need to know there is a strong and independent watchdog on their side in Washington.”

Cordray’s nomination met similar opposition in 2011, which led Obama to install him through a recess appointment. Senate staffers say Obama’s end-run has poisoned the waters for Cordray’s confirmation.