Why Republicans might soften their stance on Senate appointments

at 12:34 PM ET, 01/24/2012

President Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stirred a backlash from Republican senators, and now a number of other nominees--whose confirmations had been moving forward smoothly-- may be in doubt.

Waiting for Senate approval are: the two Fed governor nominees, Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein; Martin Gruenberg, chosen to chair the FDIC; Thomas Hoenig, appointed as FDIC vice chairman; and Thomas Curry, picked to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The Senate Banking Committee greenlighted Gruenberg, Hoenig and Curry weeks ago. But given the smarting over Cordray, many have wondered whether Republicans would turn on these nominations to punish the president for circumventing a Senate vote.
President Obama appointed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without a Senate vote. (SOURCE: AP )

But one Republican member of the banking committee, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), suggested Tuesday that Republicans might be cautious about resorting to pure obstructionism. When asked what Republicans intended to do about the pending Treasury and Fed nominations, Corker suggested they were still deliberating their strategy.

“I don’t know. I don’t think you’re going to see carte blanche reprisal,” he told reporters.

Any obstructionist strategy could backfire, as it did during House Republicans’ battle with the White House over raising the nation’s the debt-limit and extending the payroll tax holiday .

Another reason to be cautious: Some of the nominees on hold have strong ties to the Republican Party, which could give some senators pause about a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested Hoenig for the FDIC job, and Powell was a former Treasury official in the Bush administration.

At the same time, Corker insisted that the battle over Obama’s recess appointments — including Cordray and members of the National Labor Relations Board — wasn’t over yet. “Every single rule made by Cordray and ruling that the NLRB makes is going to be challenged on constitutional grounds, and should be,” he said. “And that’s going to create even more uncertainty.”

In fact, Cordray’s Consumer Financial Protection Board has already begun rolling out its early regulations for mortgages, payday lending and consumer products. And while there’s been a lot of talk about litigation, no lawsuits have been filed against the CFPB.

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