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Warren: Senate Should Get Say on Mulvaney as Interim CFPB Director

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks at a rally outside the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau headquarters in Washington on Nov. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said the Senate should have to confirm Mick Mulvaney as the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before he can legally take control of the agency.

“It is the power of the president to nominate someone and then it goes to the United States Senate to decide – can they stand next to the person who has just been named to be the head of the agency? Are the Republicans willing to stand next to someone who says they want to run this agency for the benefit of Wall Street? I don’t think they want to do that,” Warren said Tuesday at a protest with progressive activists outside of the CFPB headquarters.

“That is the problem – that Mick Mulvaney wants to try to run this agency from another office in the White House, where he is directly accountable to the president of the United States,” she added. “When the CFPB was drafted, the whole idea was, as much as possible, to push the agency away from politics.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) agreed with Warren’s assessment and said Mulvaney is not the legitimate director.

“We said that the director won’t be able to be fired by a new president except for cause and very specific terms for what they meant. And we said if the director left that the acting director would become a director in order to protect it from an appointment of someone who wanted to dismantle the agency,” Merkley said, referring to Dodd-Frank’s text on the line of succession at the bureau. “There is a legitimate director right now and that person’s name is Leandra English…Who is the director that the law says should be in place? Leandra English, not Mick Mulvaney.”

Former CFPB Director Richard Cordray named CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English as his successor when he resigned Friday. English sued to block President Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, as interim director of the CFPB. The White House has not mentioned a specific timeframe for the nomination of a permanent CFPB director, but officials have reportedly said Trump would name someone in the “upcoming weeks.”

Today, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly in Washington rejected English’s temporary restraining order request to block Mulvaney. Her attorney indicated she would continue her legal action.

“Donald Trump and congressional Republicans want to make this all about politics, but this isn’t about politics. This is about what is fair. This agency has forced the biggest banks in this country to return more than $12 billion directly to people they cheated,” Warren said at the protest.

“This isn’t about politics,” the senator added. “This is about whose side are you on, and Donald Trump said all during his campaign he was going to be on the side of working people, that he had the courage to stand up to Wall Street. And he has done the world’s biggest U-turn. He has appointed a whole economic team from Goldman Sachs.”

Warren argued that Trump is trying to “hollow out” the CFPB by appointing Mulvaney, a vocal critic of the agency. Mulvaney has argued for more transparency of the CFPB’s budget and hiring process. In a 2014 interview, Mulvaey referred to the CFPB as a “sick, sad” joke when the agency retroactively changed its performance rating system for employees after racial disparities among performance reviews were revealed.

“We are continuing to examine the root causes of the disparities we found. But based on our work to date, it is clear that there was no single factor that caused this result. We also are taking the initiative to address and remedy the disparities that our system created,” Cordray emailed employees on May 19, 2014.

“Every CFPB employee, except senior leadership, who received a three or four summary performance rating in fiscal years 2012 or 2013 under the prior performance management program will be compensated as if his or her rating had been a five at the time of evaluation, including both merit and lump sum payments,” he added.

In reaction to Cordray’s decision, Mulvaney said, “It’s a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns out being a joke, and that’s what the CFPB really has been in a sick, sad, kind of way.”

After Trump appointed him director, Mulvaney imposed a 30-day hiring freeze at the bureau as one of his first actions.

Warren said she still prefers having the CFPB run by one director as opposed to a group of commissioners. She compared the CFPB to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

“The reason it was set up that way is by looking around and taking a lesson from what’s happened at the SEC with its five-member commission, what’s happened at the Federal Election Commission with its five-member commission, those have been agencies that have really been mired in politics,” she said. “When you have people taking to their political corners it has kept those agencies from doing their jobs. And that has had some pretty serious ramifications for the rest of the country.”