The Roundabout Strategy to Weaken Consumer Protections

Stories covering Senate gridlock border on the redundant by this point, but Republican senators are once again arbitrarily posturing against President Obama’s nominees. The Washington Post reports that 44 Republicans sent the president a letter pledging to block whomever Obama nominates to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). At the same time, 19 Republican senators vowed to oppose Obama's nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after the panel issued a ruling against Boeing.

When Democrats threatened to rewrite the Senate's rules at the start of the current session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached an accord to begin limiting the extent of filibusters against presidential nominees. While the two sides are still on track to the half of that agreement that will reduce the total number of executive jobs that require Senate approval, the latest Republican maneuvering indicates that they are not yet content to allow the confirmation process to operate smoothly for the positions they still have the power to vet.

The Senate's power of confirmation is not intended to give individual politicians another avenue to complain about their policy preferences but rather as measure to check the competency of those who staff the federal government. Senators should reject confirmation for nominees who are solely ideologues placed in an agency without regard to their ability to complete the tasks of the job description. But does the lead Republican objector Richard Shelby think that Obama’s nominee to lead the CFPB is unfit for the job? He can't since Obama hasn't yet named whom he would like to hire for the spot. Do Republicans believe that Lafe Solomon lacks the skills to act as the NLBR's general counsel? Solomon has yet to reach a committee hearing, so his experience likely has no bearing for the Republican's objection.

Republicans have every right to hate the CFPB, but as the legislative branch, they have the option to pass bills to reshape these agencies. But Republicans know that they're still in the minority in one half of Congress and don't control the White House, so these measures would go nowhere. So instead they continue to manipulate the intent of the confirmation process to enhance their legislative power beyond what they were granted by voters during previous elections.

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