Boehner Attempts to Undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Because the preamble of the United States Constitution speaks of “We the people,” rather than “We the corporations,” Speaker of the House John Boehner does not quite reach that proper, patriotic tone when he says, “No more regulation without representation.”

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today applauded House passage of H.R. 1195, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Boards Act, which would establish a small business committee to advise regulators throughout the rule-making process:

“One reason small businesses are still struggling is that they don’t have a seat at the table where regulators are making the decisions. This bipartisan plan ends regulation without representation and gives small business owners a real say in the process. We shouldn’t just be listening to the people who create most of the new jobs in America; we should be empowering them to help develop rules that will protect investment and innovation. I’m sure I’m just one of many current and former small business owners pleased we have acted today to hold the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable.”

Did you catch that last part? The CFPB makes businesses accountable by protecting consumers. Boehner wants to reverse how this works, and make those who protect consumers held accountable to businesses.

Which defeats the purpose. Republicans called the CFPB “unnecessary government overreach” and Boehner appears to think he’s found an underhanded way to defang federal protection of consumers like you and me. The claim to be helping small businesses is just subterfuge.

H.R. 1195, otherwise known as the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Boards Act,” is sponsored by Republican Robert Pittenger, Representative for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, and introduced on March 2, 2015.

It is, its description tells us, a bill “To amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to establish advisory boards, and for other purposes.” The details and rationale of the bill are described here.

In essence, the bill establishes a “Small Business Advisory Board” which “will ensure small businesses have the opportunity to provide input to the CFPB regarding their concerns.” This is the part Boehner is pushing. There is more – the ominous “other purposes” – but we will get to that in a moment.

Of course, The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act) established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose mission it is to “make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.”

The CFPB’s core functions are:

  • Write rules, supervise companies, and enforce federal consumer financial protection laws
  • Restrict unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices
  • Take consumer complaints
  • Promote financial education
  • Research consumer behavior
  • Monitor financial markets for new risks to consumers
  • Enforce laws that outlaw discrimination and other unfair treatment in consumer finance

You might notice the CFPB protects consumers from businesses and corporations, big or small. Because, as the Romans wisely said, “Let the buyer beware.” And the Romans would know. They didn’t have a CFPB.

We can point out on the one hand that it defeats the purpose if the businesses consumers are being protected from get to pick and choose their own regulations. This is not at all a promising trend for consumers.

Republicans call HR 1195 “bipartisan,” but the bill has 15 Republican co-sponsors to only four Democrats. The vote yesterday was 235 yes versus 183 no. Only four Democrats voted for the bill, which tells you just how bipartisan it really is (see who voted for and against here).

And in fact, as Nancy Pelosi has pointed out, H.R. 1195 is just “the latest House GOP attempt to undermine the CFPB which protects hard-working American consumers.” No surprise given the long history of Republican opposition to the CFPB in the first place and its attacks on it since.

Far from simply adding a voice for small businesses, an important aspect of the bill (an amendment by Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), is that it cuts the CFPB’s funding by placing a ceiling on its budget.

One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), urged opposition to the bill, saying Republicans “put the torch to it.”

The same Republicans who are willing to throw away billions through government shut-downs, repeated investigations of Benghazi, suing the president, repealing Obamacare, and pointless other invented scandals, attack what they call the “CFPB’s bloated, wasteful spending.”

For all their claims to be champions of the middle class, that is what the Republicans think of spending money when the money is actually helping Americans like us.

This spending ceiling is something the administration naturally says it opposes. Not only does the CFPB not need additional committees, but, says the White House,

“…the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1195 as amended by House passage last week of the rule for consideration of the bill, which would reduce the cap on the total amount of funding that could be requested by the Director for the CFPB for FYs 2020 and 2025… These reductions to the caps could result in, among other things, undermining critical protections for families from abusive and predatory financial products. If the President were presented with H.R. 1195 as currently amended, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

So Obama’s advisors have said they will recommend he veto the bill.

Now he will get his chance.

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