It’s cloudy and stormy here today, perhaps trying to match the Republicans’ approach toward governing the country. Earlier this month the Senate Republicans drove off a superb candidate for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now they have vowed to attack anyone appointed to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a piece of the Dodd-Frank law passed last year before the Tea Party legislators swamped Washington. That legislation was intended to repair the loopholes that permitted big banks to take on too much risk and prevent another financial collapse.
Almost three years ago, Elizabeth Warren came out of relative obscurity to head the Congressional Oversight Panel. Until then the $700 million bailout, started by George W. Bush, was operated in a chaotic manner with no guidelines for money expenditure. Warren brought it out of morass and appeared to be the ideal choice to head the CFPB. Ideal anyway, for any rational person. But no one said that most of the current Senate Republicans are rational. They are not only totally opposed to Warren heading up the bureau but also to anyone else, promising to filibuster (the conservatives’ typical temper tantrum toward anything they don’t like) anyone appointed to this position.
The Republicans’ desire to attack Warren in a recent Congressional hearing was so strong that House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) told her that she was lying about the amount of time that she was supposed to testify and lying about her activities earlier in the year—in midst of the hearing. Earlier in the day he had also accused Warren of lying when he appeared on CNBC.
Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Jackie Speier (D-CA), joined by Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on TARP and Financial Services, sent a letter to McHenry asking him to apologize for his “disrespectful treatment” of Elizabeth Warren during last week’s hearing. A Democrat on the subcommittee also apologized “for the rude and disrespectful behavior of the chair.” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) told Warren that McHenry’s accusation “indicates to me that this hearing is all about you, because people are afraid of you and your ability to communicate in very clear terms the threats to our consumers.”
Warren was not previously been nominated to head up the CFPB because of the Republican hostility toward someone who might take the big banks’ unethical practices to task. Since the creation of the bureau, she has been acting as a special assistant to Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner, trying to cut down on predatory lending.
Republicans (and some Democrats) are friends of big banks, so their goal is to weaken or eliminate the bureau. Three bills passed in the House Financial Services Committee toward that end are to oversee it with a bipartisan commission, make it easier for other regulators to veto any of its rules, and stop its independent status until the director is confirmed by the Senate where Republicans want congressional approval over its budget and greater veto power by banking regulators. The fox isn’t even guarding the henhouse; it just watches.
Warren has described why conservatives are dead-set against the bureau. “This little government agency has the opportunity to make consumer financial markets work better for families, better for responsible lenders, and better for the economy as a whole,” Warren said in prepared remarks for a commencement address Friday at the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, N.J. “This agency is built on the faith that when the rules are fair, when anyone can see prices and risks up front and when fine print can’t be used to hide nasty surprises, then we have the chance to build stronger families and a stronger America.” Evidently Republicans don’t want the transparency for and protection of the consumers–not really a surprise to those of us who watch their tactics.
Republicans have come out openly with the real reason for their opposition. Rep. Last year Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)—chairman of the House Financial Services Committee–said, “My view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” When Bachus spoke to a group of 100 financial services lobbyists, he told them that the banks they work for should make campaign contributions to Republicans because of the way that Democrats “hammered” the banks by enacting the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law. I’m amazed that people voted for the legislators who supported the unethical big banks who take the money from the voters.
McHenry’s constituents are furious about his behavior. “I ‘like’ the fact that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans are appalled by your behavior,” wrote Jill Budzynski on his Facebook. “You are an insult to the title of chairman of any committee. It is out of order to abuse a loyal public servant who is trying her best to accommodate your flip-flopping of schedules. How reprehensible to accuse her of lying. Apologize now.” (For more of McHenry’s issues, just Google him.)
Even the Republicans aren’t happy with McHenry. But this probably won’t stop him.