By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy Communications Strategist, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR
Yesterday, we saw a welcome victory for consumer protections. In a final vote of 66 to 34, the Senate confirmed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This is a monumental win for Latino families and a move to avert a nuclear crisis. That is, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) did not need to deploy his “nuclear option” to rewrite senate procedure and make a unilateral move to change filibuster rules. While some senators voted to preserve the CFPB’s leadership and some had other motives to preserve the filibuster, installing Cordray in a long-term leadership role is an immense step toward consumer rights and bringing true accountability to the financial industry.
While Cordray accepted the role of CFPB director through a recess appointment in early 2012, opponents of the Bureau had long stalled a final confirmation as a means to weaken the CFPB. Throughout the heated debate on the matter, opponents clearly stated that this was not about Cordray’s qualifications. As we’ve heard time and again, industry members, congress members on both sides of the aisle, and consumer advocates laud Cordray’s extensive record championing consumer rights and his success in fighting predatory lending practices. However, their refusal to consider even an up or down vote on the director position played politics with the highly fragile mission to rebuild our nation’s economy. Such dithering went against the very core of what Cordray and the Bureau represent—protecting families from another unnecessary crisis.
The success of the CFPB and its leader is essential for communities of color. Many have yet to feel relief or recovery. Well before the meltdown, Latinos were no stranger to some of the exotic products that were brought to light by the crisis. The CFPB is key to resolving these challenges. Under Cordray’s direction, the Bureau prioritized consumers, advanced new protections and disclosures for remittances, and issued new mortgage rules that will keep homeownership opportunities open to Hispanic families. This is just the beginning.
With yesterday’s vote, we did see a glimmer of hope in the way of progress. It would have been nice if our leaders didn’t have to be strong-armed into choosing what’s best for our families. The financial crisis was a point in history when our leaders should have prioritized positive reforms. The creation of the CFPB was a testament to that vision and those who passed the Dodd-Frank Act—the Act under which the CFPB was created—set aside political posturing to make a lasting difference. However, what has happened since is truly baffling. Instead of capitalizing on this foundation to design lasting solutions to complex and harmful practices, opponents stymied true recovery. We do applaud the Senate for today’s outcome and hope there is more to come. It’s just unfortunate that all but a nuclear threat made it so.