Mitt Romney is denouncing Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray as top consumer cop as “Chicago style politics at its worst.” Rick Santorum is calling on the Senate to sue to stop the appointment. Republicans in Congress are threatening all sorts of actions to block it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce may head to court with its own lawyers.
The White House’s response? It has quickly rolled out Cordray to tell the American people what he actually intends to do on behalf of consumers in his new role.
Cordray just delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution, where he detailed his agenda for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The game plan: While Republicans debate process, Cordray is trying to tell the American people what GOP opposition to his appointment would take away from them in the way of consumer protection.
Cordray’s speech at Brookings outlined what the Times calls a “vigorous oversight and enforcement agenda,”putting purveyors of financial products on notice that they will face “real consequences to breaking the law.” He added that his agency would be particularly aggressive in monitoring the types of financial companies that have previously gone mostly unregulated.
“Many subprime loans during the housing bubble were made by nonbank mortgage brokers,” Cordray said. “Since most of these businesses are not used to any federal oversight, our new supervision program may be a challenge for them. But we must establish clear standards of conduct so that all financial providers play by the rules.”
The quick move to roll out Cordray seems designed to reinforce a political dynamic that played in Dems’ favor during the payroll tax cut debate. While Republicans get caught up in an argument about process — i.e., the legitimacy of recess appointments — the White House is advocating for its policies, and telling people how they will be protected by them.
Even if there’s some merit to GOP criticism of the Dem reversal on recess appointments, it’s hard to see how this debate plays in Republicans’ favor. Congress’s popularity is mired in the single digits, and some polls show that Republicans are bearing the blame for the sort of governmental gridlock that the Cordray appointment circumvented. Meanwhile, the public seems to generally agree with Dems on the substance of the issues involved. A recent Pew poll found that majorities, including of independents, think corporations have too much power and have come to see Wall Street as a destructive economic force. A Time poll recently found that 86 percent say Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington. Other polls have shown majority support for Wall Street reform in general.
While bashing the appointment as tyranny or worse may juice up GOP primary voters, it’s hard to see how trying to unravel this new agency will play well among the broader public or do anything good for the GOP brand.
UPDATE: I should have noted that my colleague Felicia Sonmez made the process point first.