December 5, 2011 10:33AM

Consumer Finance Nominee Cordray to Get Floor Vote?

Rumor is that Richard Cordray might just get a vote on his nomination to head the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the Dodd‐​Frank Act. Full Senate vote could come as early as Wednesday.

Given that 44 Republican Senators have said they will oppose his nomination, cloture on the motion to proceed seems likely to fail, dooming the vote. But as Bloomberg makes clear, this vote isn’t about protecting consumers, it is about protecting President Obama’s job.

The President plans to use the vote to argue that Republicans are hacks for Wall Street, while he fights for the middle class. Of course he never mentions that the new agency does NOT even cover Wall Street, which remains under the Securities and Exchange Commission. And if he is being so tough on banks, then why is his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner going around saying that having Cordray in place would be good for banks? Which exactly is it? But then the fact that Geithner is still Treasury Secretary offers plenty evidence on who is really the “front” for Wall Street.

The CFPB already has plenty of power to go after banks. What it lacks is expanded authority over non‐​banks. For some bizarre reason Geithner believes it was check‐​cashiers and payday lenders behind the financial crisis. But then such a belief goes a long way in explaining his failed performance as NY Fed President.

I’ve written elsewhere on the structural changes Republicans are asking for, which would add some transparency and accountability to the new agency. Republicans are right to fight for these changes, using the only leverage they have. So far Republicans have only focused on the agency itself, saying little about Cordray. Even if Republicans were successful getting their changes, they should still question Cordray. During his thankfully short political career, Cordray showed himself to be a reliable friend of the trial bar. His nomination exposes what the CFPB has been really about all along: lining the pockets of the trial bar.