President Barack Obama introduces former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray...

President Barack Obama introduces former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as his nominee to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established by Congress after the 2008 financial meltdown. His confirmation has been held up by Senate Republicans who want to restructure the agency. (July 18, 2011) Credit: AP

Senate Republicans have been shameless in their zeal to neuter the agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect consumers from unscrupulous and misleading lending practices. Five months after it doors opened, the agency has no leader and no muscle.

Earlier this month, a GOP filibuster blocked confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And 44 senators insist they won't vote to approve anyone for the job until the new bureau is restructured. But what they call restructuring is actually demolition. The bureau can oversee existing banking regulations, but until a director is in place, it can't issue new rules or regulate non-bank operations such as mortgage servicers and payday lenders. These regulations include plain language on terms for home loans and for credit cards, as well as the use of large type for readability.

Obama could use a recess appointment to install his nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who is acknowledged by both sides to be highly qualified. Although lawmakers have left town for the holidays, the Senate hasn't officially recessed. Still, the president could employ a seldom-used parliamentary tactic to challenge the blocking. That would be an aggressive move by the White House, but it's the only way to respond to aggressive GOP tactics. It's not the best way to do business, but it's preferable to the current stalemate.

Republicans say they're holding out for greater transparency and accountability. Those are buzzwords meant to cast GOP obstructionism as good government. It's no such thing, and the public deserves better.

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