President Obama said today it "makes absolutely no sense" that the Senate failed to confirm Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and he accused Republicans of blocking key appointments to win political points.
"We are not giving up on this. We are going to keep on going at it. We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected by unscrupulous financial operators," the president told reporters in the briefing room of the White House.
Republicans opposed Cordray's nomination not because of his qualifications but because they are trying to force structural changes to the agency. "I know that some of them have made an argument, well, we just want to sort of make some modifications in the law. Well, they're free to introduce a bill and get that passed," Obama said. "But part of what's happened over on Capitol Hill - not just on this issue but on every issue - is they will hold up nominations."
"Well-qualified judges do not get a vote. Assistant secretaries to the Treasury get held up for no reason," Obama said. "They are trying to see if they can use that to reverse some sort of law that's already been passed. That's what part of what gets the American people so frustrated. The do not think this is on the level."
Obama did not rule out the possibility of a recess appointment. "I will not take any options off the table when it comes to getting Richard Cordray in as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Board," Obama said. "My hope and expectation is that the Republicans who've blocked this nomination come to their senses."
On the broader payroll tax cut fight, the president warned again that lawmakers should not go home for the holidays until the payroll tax cut is extended, and that he will also postpone his Hawaii vacation if need be. "Get it done. And if not, you know, maybe we'll have a … white Christmas here in Washington," he said.
"This is not about me. They shouldn't extend the payroll tax cut for me. They shouldn't extend unemployment insurance for me. This is for 160 million people who in 23 days are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn't act," the president said as he stood before the White House clocks counting down to the moment when the payroll tax cut expires.
The president also spoke out against a move by House Republicans to tie action on the Keystone pipeline to the payroll tax cut. While Obama has said he would "reject" such a measure, Republicans claim the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs. "Here's what I know: However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline, they're going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance," the president said.