Business, Finance & Economics

Obama recess appointment: Richard Cordray to lead Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


President Barack Obama shakes hands with Richard Cordray (R) before speaking about the economy at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Jan. 4, 2012.


Saul Loeb

President Barack Obama announced today that he has appointed Richard Cordray as the first head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Because Obama appointed him while the Senate is in recess, Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, does not need the Senate’s approval to step into the role.

Obama had nominated Cordray for the job last summer, but Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation, the LA Times reported.

“I am now the director and my work will be to protect American consumers,” Cordray said today, according to Bloomberg News. “I’m going to be 100 percent focused on that.”

According to the New York Times:

The decision to install Mr. Cordray without Senate approval under the Constitutional provision for making appointments when lawmakers are in recess was a provocative opening salvo in Mr. Obama’s re-election strategy of demonizing Congress.

“The only reason Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard is because they don’t agree with the law that set up a consumer watchdog in the first place,” Obama said in a speech today at a high school in Cordray’s hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, according to the New York Times.

Predictably, Republicans were miffed. “This is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a prepared statement, the New York Times reported. “The precedent that would be set by this cavalier action would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our Constitution.”

The Senate is supposed to be out of session for more than three days before the president can make recess appointments, Bloomberg News reported. To prevent Obama from exercising this power, congressional Republicans refused to formally adjourn for the holiday season and have held brief pro forma sessions every three days.

However, Obama’s advisers said they are confident the president’s recess appointments will stand, Bloomberg News reported.

“Gimmicks do not override the president’s constitutional authority to make appointments to keep the government running,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote in a post on the White House website, according to Bloomberg News. He noted that President George W. Bush’s lawyers wrote that the Senate “cannot use sham ‘pro forma’ sessions to prevent the president from exercising a constitutional power.”

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