GOP Objections to the Consumer Board and WH Non-Response — Today’s Q’s for O’s WH — 12/7/2011

Dec 7, 2011 4:08pm

TAPPER: Neal, one of the concerns raised by Senator Susan Collins, who voted for Dodd-Frank I believe, is that she thinks Congress should have oversight over the budget of this — of this board. She said, in a time of crippling deficits, having the board be able to – the bureau be able to decide its own budget up to $500 million doesn’t make any sense.

I’m wondering if you could address that, and also the fact that Senator McConnell said that Republican senators wrote seven months ago to the White House noting — or maybe this is a better question for Jay(Carney) — but noting their concerns, and they have yet to hear back from the White House in an official capacity about those concerns.

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY NEAL WOLIN: I think on the funding thing, Jake, first of all, you know, no federal bank regulator has appropriated funds, and the reason for that is want to make sure that our bank regulators are free of political influence. And so they all have independence. And we think that like all the others, in terms of raising the funds for their own operations, the CFPB should treated — be treated similarly.

Unique among them, however, as I noted at my — in my introduction, the CFPB does have a funding cap. And if they want any more money beyond that, they will have to go to Congress to seek that money.

That is more constrained than any other federal bank regulator. And so we think it’s important, both because we want bank regulation in this country to be free of political influence and we want to make sure that the CFPB is treated, you know, as much as possible, similarly to its banking colleagues, that the provisions that are in the statute are appropriate.

Now, on the question of the letter from the 44 senators, I would say this. You know, the Congress spent many, many months discussing what the appropriate governance structure of the CFPB should be. I would say both Democrats and Republicans, very much involved in those conversations. And in the end, Congress decided on a set of checks and balances, a governance structure that would have all kinds of accountability provisions that were, as I noted above, unprecedented.

And so Congress then passed that legislation; the president signed it. It is now the law of the country. And it’s our view that we should go ahead and implement the law of the country, especially when what we’re talking about here is a law that, in very common-sense, very practical, very sort of real ways, is about protecting consumers from the kinds of complicated language and traps that they were all too often subjected to before the statute was enacted and were meaningfully a cause of the financial crisis that we have just been going through.

TAPPER: One quick follow up. Do you view the concerns raised by Republican senators as legitimate, principled concerns about this bureau? Or does the Obama administration view this as obstructionism, and they just oppose the bureau and will do everything they can to stop it?

WOLIN: Look, I think Congress had an opportunity and did, in fact, have a very robust discussion about what the appropriate governance and accountability structures for this agency would be. Most of these concerns were not raised at the time.

In fact, you know, one of the things that some Republican senators have objected to is having a single head of the agency. Now, you know, they haven’t objected to the fact that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is another very important bank regulator, has for a hundred years had a single director.

And in fact in the Dodd-Frank statute itself, not only was there no effort to make the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency subject to a multi-member commission as its governing structure, but the OCC was actually given additional authorities. The Office of Thrift Supervision was folded into this entity that has a single director.

So, look, I think in the end, Jake, what’s important here is that the work of the CFPB is critically important for American consumers and for our economy. The Congress had a very robust, very thorough debate about what this structure should look like. They came up with a set of solutions that is unprecedented in terms of its level of accountability vis-a-vis any other bank regulator. And the president has put forward an extraordinary individual to be the first director, and we think we should get on now with the business of — the Senate should get on with the business of confirming Mr. Cordray as director so that this agency can protect American consumers.

-Jake Tapper

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