The Politics Behind the Consumer Chief Recess Appointment


English: Richard Cordray, Attorney General of Ohio

Richard Cordray

Last month I wrote about the possibility that the White House might sidestep Senate confirmation and “recess-appoint” Richard Cordray as the first director of the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – despite the fact that Republicans were keeping Congress from recessing to prevent such an appointment. Well, it seems the White House has decided to do just that.

Many Democrats see the appointment of Cordray as a three-fer:

  • first, the CFPB finally gets leadership;
  • second, Obama supporters get energized by the president’s willingness to confront Republicans;
  • and third, a determined President Obama is contrasted with an obstructionist Republican Congress. This move fits nicely within the Administration’s macro political strategy, explained to Politico’s Morning Money by a Democratic insider: “The President will challenge Congress at every turn to showcase his use of executive authority to break the Washington logjam.  . . . In the throes of the Iowa Caucus post-mortems, the president gets a governing story in the midst of wall-to-wall Republican politics – a nice juxtaposition.”

Republicans have threatened to challenge Cordray’s appointment in court, but the Washington Post notes that Democrats tried this route unsuccessfully when President George W. Bush pushed through a recess appointment to a federal appeals court back in 2004.

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