President Obama kicked off 2012 by using the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB as an opening to hammer Republicans for opposing consumer financial protections.
Here’s the video via C-SPAN:
The president said,
But we still need to do more. So today, we’re taking another important step – one that will bring us closer to an economy where everyone plays by the same rules. And to help us do that, I’m joined by someone you might recognize: Richard Cordray.
Today I’m appointing Richard as America’s consumer watchdog. That means he’ll be in charge of one thing: looking out for the best interests of American consumers. His job will be to protect families like yours from the abuses of the financial industry. His job will be to make sure you’ve got all the information you need to make important financial decisions. Right away, he’ll start working to make sure millions of Americans are treated fairly by mortgage brokers, payday lenders and debt collectors. In fact, just this week, his agency is opening up a simple, 1-800 number you can call to make sure you’re getting a fair deal on your mortgage, and hold banks and brokers accountable if you’re not.
I nominated Richard for this job last summer. And yet, for almost half a year, Republicans in the Senate have blocked his confirmation. They’ve refused to even give Richard and up-or-down vote. It’s not because he’s unqualified. There is no question that Richard is the right person for this job. He’s got support from Democrats and Republicans. A majority of Attorneys General from both parties across the country have called for Richard to be confirmed. Your local Members of Congress who are here today – they support him. He has the support of a majority in the Senate. Everyone agrees that he’s more than qualified.
The only reason Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard is because they don’t agree with the law setting up the consumer watchdog. They want to weaken it. Well that makes no sense at all. Does anyone think the reason we got in such a financial mess was because of too much oversight? Of course not. We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening it – especially when it comes to looking out for families like yours. Financial firms have armies of lobbyists in Washington looking out for their interests. It’s time someone fought for you, too.
Obama later made it clear that where Congress won’t act, he will,
Every day that Richard waited to be confirmed was another day when millions of Americans are left unprotected. Without a Director in place, the consumer watchdog agency we’ve set up is left without the tools it needs to prevent dishonest mortgage brokers, payday lenders and debt collectors from taking advantage of consumers. That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. And I refuse to take “no” for an answer.
I’ve said before that I will continue to look for every opportunity to work with Congress to move this country forward and create jobs. That means putting construction workers back on the job repairing our roads and bridges. That means keeping teachers in the classrooms and cops and firefighters on the streets. That means helping small businesses get ahead. These are ideas that have support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And I want to work with Congress to get them done.
But when Congress refuses to act and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them. I have an obligation to act on behalf of the American people. I will not stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people they were elected to serve. Not when so much is at stake. Not at this make-or-break moment for the middle class.
The recess appointment itself is meaningful because it is more proof that Obama is done playing games with this Congress. The president also managed to turn a recess appointment into an illustration of how the current dysfunctional Congress has failed America.
Without a bit of irony, Speaker of the House John Boehner reacted to the recess appointment with a statement accusing Obama of a power grab. Boehner said, “This is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department. The precedent that would be set by this cavalier action would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our Constitution.”
Boehner also admitted that the appointment was blocked because House Republicans don’t believe there should be an agency for consumer financial protection, “This position had not been filled for one reason: The agency it heads is bad for jobs and bad for the economy. It’s clear the president would rather trample our system of separation of powers than work with Republicans to move the country forward. This action goes beyond the president’s authority, and I expect the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate.”
Boehner’s statement was nothing more than the latest GOP talking point. His remarks have also been echoed by Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch, but the Republicans don’t have a leg to stand on. Every president since George Washington has made recess appointments. What the GOP is most upset about is that Obama has taken away their ability to obstruct.
President Obama is serious about using his executive power to get around the Republican led congressional obstruction. If this is the path that 2012 is going to take nothing big will get done, but Congress will be rendered irrelevant. The House Republicans will be free to bicker, debate, and divide amongst themselves, but at least their dysfunction will no longer drag the rest of the country down with them.
Obama is in full campaign mode, and it takes a special kind of political talent to be able to turn a recess appointment into a message about how Republicans don’t care about the middle class. With their House caucus paralyzed by internal disputes, and a 2012 nominating process that is being led by a candidate that conservatives can’t stand, the Republican Party is a mess.
With this appointment today, President Obama made it clear that he has extracted himself from the GOP’s mess, and is ready to take advantage of the Republican Party’s inevitable collapse under the weight of their own failings.
The recess appoint of Richard Cordray was next step in a strategy that began with the American Jobs Act continued through the payroll tax cut extension, and if successful will get the president reelected in November.