Obama visits consumer watchdog agency, introduces Cordray as new director

President Obama introduced Richard Cordray as the new director of a federal consumer watchdog agency, telling workers that they now have the full tools available under the law to protect ordinary Americans from Wall Street’s predatory financial abuses of recent years.

Obama paid a brief visit to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just two days after installing Cordray as director over objections of Senate Republicans, who had blocked his nomination last month. Obama used a “recess appointment” to unilaterally appoint Cordray, even though the Senate remains in pro forma session.

The president did not directly address the controversial maneuver, which has drawn protest from GOP lawmakers. Instead, Obama chose to tie Friday’s positive jobs report to the watchdog agency’s role in helping make the economy stronger going forward.

Obama noted that 212,000 private-sector jobs were created in December, and said that the economy is “moving in the right direction,” but he stressed that there is a lot more work to do.

“We have a responsibility to do even more to try to recover from the devastating recession and financial crisis,” Obama said. “We must make sure the economy we’re building is one where a middle-class family can be sure to move ahead again.”

He said the consumer agency has a “critical role to play to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules, that big banks on Wall Street play by the same rules as main street. That we make sure the rules of the road are enforced. That is your mission, to make sure the American people have someone in their corner.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to oversee mortgage companies, payday lenders and debt collectors, among others. Obama pushed through the financial reform act during a fierce battle with Republican leaders, who have since vowed to dismantle it.

Without a full-time director, the agency had limited authority, Obama said Friday, but “now that Richard is your director, you can finally exercise your full power.”

Cordray appeared with Obama at the agency, a day after the director spoke about his new job during an appearance at the Brookings Institution.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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