Bill would replace director with commission, subject bureau to appropriations process
Feb 01 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today reintroduced legislation to reform the structure of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The Responsible Consumer Financial Protection Regulations Act of 2013, (S. 205), would replace the single CFPB Director with a Senate-confirmed five-person commission – similar to the leadership structure of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trade Commission (CFTC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). S. 205 would also subject the CFPB to the regular appropriations process like most federal agencies while also establishing a safety and soundness check.
"Allowing a single unelected official to define their own jurisdiction and regulate vast segments of our economy without accountability or restraint is irresponsible regardless of political party," Sen. Moran said. "This commonsense legislation brings a variety of perspectives to the Bureau and gives Congress the oversight authority required for such a powerful agency. We stand ready to work with the president to make certain the CFPB’s mission of consumer protection is both effective and accountable."
"History has shown that the ‘power of the purse’ is a critical tool that Congress employs to hold agencies accountable," Sen. Moran continued. "The CFPB has more power and authority than almost any independent agency in history and asking them to present a budget to Congress for approval is a very modest request."
Sen. Moran’s legislation – which was originally introduced in 2011 – would enact the reforms requested by himself and 42 of his Senate colleagues in a letter sent to the President today stating they will continue to oppose the confirmation of any nominee, regardless of party affiliation, to be the director of the CFPB until key changes are made to ensure accountability and transparency at the bureau. This is the second time the Senators have made this request to the President, sending the original message to him on May 2, 2011. Today, the lawmakers again urged the adoption of three reforms:
- Replace the single Director with a board to oversee the Bureau. This would provide the same checks on the ability for a single person to dominate the Bureau that exist at other independent federal agencies.
- Subject the Bureau to the Congressional appropriations process. This would provide oversight and accountability to the American people on how public money is spent.
- Establish a safety-and-soundness check for the prudential financial regulators who oversee the safety and soundness of financial institutions. This would help ensure that excessive regulations do not needlessly cause bank failures.
The Dodd-Frank Act currently allows the CFPB director to set his or her annual budget by withdrawing funds directly from the Federal Reserve, rather than going through the annual Congressional appropriations process like most independent agencies. Additionally, Dodd-Frank denies the Federal Reserve any authority to deny or adjust the CFPB director’s request. Sen. Moran’s legislation would subject the CFPB to the annual appropriations process, authorizing funding levels for FY 2011 and 2012 equal to the president’s estimate of need.
Note: During debate of what would later become the Dodd-Frank Act, then-Chairmen Frank and Waxman produced an agreement establishing that the CFPB be led by a five-member commission appointed by the president, with no more than three members from the same political party. This Democrat agreement was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but was removed in conference and replaced with a single director.
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The full text of the letter sent to the President today is provided below.
February 1, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500-0005
Dear Mr. President:
As supporters of strong and effective consumer protections, we write to you to reaffirm our concerns over the transparency and accountability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As outlined in our letter of May 2, 2011, we have serious concerns about the lack of congressional oversight of the agency and the lack of normal, democratic checks on its sole director, who would wield nearly unprecedented powers. Accordingly, we will continue to oppose the consideration of any nominee, regardless of party affiliation, to be the CFPB director until key structural changes are made to ensure accountability and transparency at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
As presently organized, the CFPB is insulated from congressional oversight of its actions and its budget. Far too much power is vested in the sole CFPB director without any meaningful checks and balances. We again urge the adoptions of the following reforms:
1. Establish a bipartisan board of directors to oversee the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
2. Subject the Bureau to the annual appropriation process, similar to other federal regulators.
3. Establish a safety-and-soundness check for the prudential regulators.
We believe these are commonsense reforms that Congress can promptly adopt on a bipartisan basis. It is essential that we address these reforms prior to confirming any nominee to be the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We look forward to working with you to address these necessary reforms.