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Dr. Gutmann: "We urge those Senators who have threatened filibuster of any CFPB nominee to disavow their blanket opposition and engage in a constructive confirmation process."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 16, 2011 -- In response to a threatened filibuster of any nominee for director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Cheryl Gutmann, Chair of the Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism, submitted a letter today to the U.S. Senate.
The full text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the policy arm of the national Reform Jewish Movement, I write to urge you to support a swift and fair confirmation process for the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
After the recent financial crisis, it is clear that establishment of the CFPB is a significant step in addressing the practices that contributed to the financial crisis. It is vital that the bureau enforce the provisions of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and implement regulations to address predatory lending practices.
While Congress, of course, has the right to revisit the Dodd-Frank legislation, it should do so through the normal legislative process, not by insisting upon weakening of the law as a precondition for it taking effect.
This is what was set forth on May 2, when 44 Senators wrote to President Obama outlining their opposition to the power conferred upon the director of the new CFPB by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Pub. L. 111-203) and, as a result, threatening to filibuster any nominee to fill the position. Objecting to the rulemaking, supervisory, investigative, and enforcement powers available to the director, the Senators argued that the CFPB will "affect every American household by limiting their choices when purchasing financial products, restricting the availability of credit to consumers, and increasing the cost of goods and services purchased using credit."
Philosophical disagreements over the CFPB should not be the basis for holding hostage a nomination process. Probing questions and a lively debate about how any nominee will dispense of his or her duties is vital, but a confirmation process is not the appropriate venue to wage ideological battle over the powers of the CFPB.
While the Senators emphasize support for "strong and effective consumer protection" and characterize their goals as a desire for greater oversight and checks and balances for the new bureau, their approach to this nomination appears to contradict this. As a precondition for consideration of any nominee, the Senators insist that bank regulators be given a "safety-and-soundness check" over any regulations issued by the CFPB. In other words, these Senators wish to give the same regulators who have been criticized for being too close to the industry they regulate a veto over protections enacted in the interest of consumers.
Furthermore, they wish to fund the CFPB with separate appropriations, rather than allowing its funding to be housed within the Federal Reserve budget with a designated percentage going to fund the CFPB. We ask the Congress to consider the wisdom of such a change on ensuring a robust consumer protection agency. In offering the 2011 continuing resolution (H.R. 1) earlier this year, the House leadership would have cut funding for the bureau nearly in half. While, in the end, this provision was not included in the final FY 2011 continuing resolution, the episode illustrates the kind of vulnerabilities that separate appropriations for the agency would create. The independence and strength of this vitally important financial watchdog is enhanced by not being subject the vagaries of an annual appropriations process.
We urge those Senators who have threatened filibuster of any CFPB nominee to disavow their blanket opposition and engage in a constructive confirmation process. We also urge all Senators to publicly oppose any effort to use the power of "advice and consent" to contravene the legislative intent of Congress in adopting Dodd-Frank or use the confirmation process as an occasion to weaken consumer protection laws.
Dr. Cheryl Gutmann
Chair, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism