Will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s compromise deal on the filibuster (which some critics say was no filibuster reform at all) with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell come back to bite Reid on the you-know-what? It sounds that way — and the chomp may come in record time:
Senate Republicans are renewing their vow to block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unless major changes are made to its structure.
In a letter sent to President Obama on Friday, 43 Republican senators committed to refusing approval of any nominee to head the consumer watchdog until the bureau underwent significant reform. Lawmakers signing on to the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.
“The CFPB as created by the deeply flawed Dodd-Frank Act is one of the least accountable in Washington,” said McConnell. “Today’s letter reaffirms a commitment by 43 Senators to fix the poorly thought structure of this agency that has unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions — but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability.”
The two GOP senators who did not sign on to the letter were Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). Corker is instead looking at legislative ways to boost the bureau’s accountability, according to his spokeswoman. And Portman sent a letter to Cordray Friday calling on him to back the GOP-preferred changes as a way to prove his independence from the White House.
The refreshed blockade comes just days after President Obama re-nominated Richard Cordray to serve as CFPB director. The president installed Cordray in the position one year ago, using a controversial recess appointment after running into similar Republican opposition.
“The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them,” the president said when he made the pick. “And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him.”
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) dismissed the latest GOP pronouncement as “just politics at play.”
“The CFPB enjoys overwhelming public support, and there is no evidence that the bureau is unaccountable and that structural changes are necessary,” Johnson said. “The market needs certainty, and blocking Richard Cordray’s nomination is a disservice to consumers and industry alike.”
Cordray’s recess appointment, due to run through the end of 2013, has come under fresh scrutiny, with many believing the move could be ruled unconstitutional. One week ago, a federal appeals court ruled that a trio of recess appointments made the same day to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional, leading many to believe it is only a matter of time under Cordray’s appointment faces a similar fate.
It’ll be interesting to see how many times GOPers use the filibuster after President Barack Obama gives the State of the Union and presents his agenda that he wants enacted. Once upon a time, the filibuster WAS the “nuclear option” in Congress — not used routinely but lingering as the ultimate threat. Now it is a routine tool used by the minority party in Congress to halt the majority from enacting policies that polls may indicate have wide support among the populace.
But, reports suggest, this was one of the key reasons Reid decided not to touch much of the way the filibuster now operates: he knows that it is a certainty Democrats will not remain in the majority forever and feels its better for the Dems to absorb any setbacks than to change the rules so one day Democrats in the minority are not completely powerless.
Some (including these folks) make the strong argument that tinkering with the filibuster by letting the majority party steamroll rules changes in the Senate could threaten democracy.
Still, this report suggests that in coming weeks Harry Reid may find that the consquences of his compromise make it a bit painful to sit down.
For now, Richard Cordray remains CFPB director, thanks to a recess appointment. But that appointment expires at the end of the year, and could come to an end earlier thanks to the DC circuit court, which ruled that similar appointments to a different regulatory body were unconstitutional.
This is a real problem. Without a director, the CFPB loses a lot of its power. But the milquetoast rules reforms that passed last week give Harry Reid no parliamentary tools to pry the GOP off its position. Short of battling it out with Republicans in the public sphere and hoping they crack, President Obama will see one of his signature accomplishments neutered by what amounts to an ad hoc legislative line item veto…by a congressional minority.
Unless Reid decides to play hardball. The court decision, and McConnell’s renewed filibuster threat seem to have caught him by surprise somehow. But if at some point later this year it becomes clear Republicans will continue to block Cordray past the end of his recess appointment, Reid could in theory revisit the filibuster reform fight.
And for what it’s worth, Republicans won’t be able to claim they weren’t warned. Here’s what he said after the rules reform package passed.
“It is my hope that these reforms will help restore a spirit of comity and bipartisan cooperation. If these reforms do not do enough to end the gridlock here in Washington, we will consider doing more in the future.”
FOOTNOTE: Will Republicans use the filibuster to try and halt the confirmation of Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense? It increasingly sounds unlikely — and increasingly sounds as if Hagel will have the votes to be confirmed, once again putting Arizona Senator John McCain AGAIN on not just the losing side of the vote but most likely in an unflattering light in future political histories. McCain is carving out a special niche in American political history: look up the word “grudge” in a future political dictionary, and you’ll see McCain’s picture in it. The Politico:
Sen. Mike Johanns said Saturday he will support the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel — a fellow Nebraska Republican — to be secretary of defense.
“Chuck earned this endorsement,” Johanns told the Lincoln Journal Star.
Asked to confirm the report, Johanns’s communications director, Nick Simpson, said in an email he would “just refer you back to that article.”
The news comes after Hagel’s confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, when the Obama nominee took heat from Republicans over his record on Iran, Israel and the Iraq war.
“Do not think he got a pass from me because he’s a friend,” Johanns added, saying Hagel’s reassurance about his view of U.S.-Israel relations was key.
Johanns also said that Hagel is set to hold more private meetings on the Hill this week, including with Republicans, and that “he believes Hagel can acquire more than 60 votes for Senate confirmation if the nomination encounters a Republican filibuster, but he’s beginning to think only a majority vote may be required.”
If GOPers filibuster Hagel’s nomination (HIGHLY UNLIKELY) then expect to see Reid under a ton of pressure from Democratic Party progressives to revisit the filibuster. And for partisan war to rage at an unprecedented level for the next two years.
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