“This makes no sense,” Obama declared. “Consumers across the country understand part of the reason we got into the financial mess we did is because regulators are not doing their jobs.”
Two days after signaling that he would make economic inequality a central pillar of his reelection effort, Obama seized the opportunity Thursday to restate his argument that Republicans were not acting in the interest of middle-class Americans.
By blocking Cordray’s nomination, Obama said, the GOP had shown itself to be more interested in winning leverage over him than in protecting consumers from “unscrupulous operators.” Obama proposed creation of the agency after the country’s financial meltdown three years ago as a way to enforce consumer regulations and monitor abuses.
Obama also said he would consider the controversial step of appointing Cordray when Congress adjourns next Friday for its holiday recess, during which it would not be empowered to block him.
“We are not giving up on this; we’ll keep on going at it,” Obama said.
Republican leaders suggested that they would seek to prevent a recess appointment by keeping the Senate technically in session throughout the holidays.
The confrontation was the latest sign of Obama’s eagerness to engage his opponents in an extended debate over economic fairness. The White House believes the issue resonates with voters along the populist lines of an Obama speech in Kansas this week that evoked the themes of Theodore Roosevelt.
But Republicans offered several reminders Thursday that they intend to challenge Obama’s vision of a path to economic prosperity at virtually every step. Senate Democrats and Republicans again failed to agree on a plan, championed by the president, to extend a payroll tax cut that is due to expire at year’s end. And House Republicans ignored Obama’s veto threat and included, in their own payroll tax cut proposal, a provision to approve the Keystone Pipeline, a cross-country oil pipeline that could create jobs. The administration has delayed the project on environmental grounds.
Though GOP lawmakers have praised Cordray’s qualifications — he is serving as the agency’s director of enforcement — they have pledged to prevent any candidate from being confirmed unless significant structural changes are made to the bureau.
Republicans want the director position replaced by a five-member commission and tighter oversight of the agency’s decisions by other regulatory bodies. They are also seeking to subject the agency to the congressional appropriations process; currently, it is funded through the Federal Reserve.