This posting was written by Sarah Borchersen-Keto, CCH Washington Correspondent.
President Obama said he will use a recess appointment to install former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), sidestepping protracted Republican efforts to block the nomination in the Senate. The GOP, however, questioned the legality of the move and indicated that it could be legally challenged.
Speaking at an event in Cleveland, Obama said “when Congress refuses to act and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them.” He added, “I will not stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people they were elected to serve. Not when so much is at stake.”
Nomination Held “Hostage”
If Republicans were to continue to hold Cordray’s nomination “hostage,” the President said, then “more dishonest lenders could take advantage of the most vulnerable among us,” while “the vast majority of financial firms who do the right thing could be undercut by those who don’t.”
Cordray, speaking prior to the announcement, said he would begin work immediately, including expanding the CFPB’s program to non-banks, “an area we haven’t been able to touch up until now.”
“Unprecedented Power Grab”
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) called the decision an “extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab . . . that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department.”
Boehner maintained that the move “goes beyond the President’s authority, and I expect the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.), said the recess appointment “represents a sharp departure from a long-standing precedent that has limited the President to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer. Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House counsel believes that Senate pro forma sessions, used to prevent the President from exercising his constitutional authority, “do not interrupt the recess.”
Asked if the White House was prepared for a legal challenge, Carney said he would not speculate on the matter, noting that “the constitutional authority the President has is very clear.”