Sen. Elizabeth Warren has watched in horror as her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been taken over by President Trump. On Thursday, she suffered her latest setback as the Senate confirmed Kathy Kraninger, Mr. Trump’s first pick for a director, to the position for the next five years.
Ms. Kraninger comes to the job from the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she worked under budget chief Mick Mulvaney.
With Thursday’s 50-49 vote she now replaces him at the CFPB, where he’s been the acting director for more than a year.
She has promised to stay the course set by Mr. Mulvaney, saying her priorities will be to bring transparency and accountability to the agency, and to protect consumer privacy while launching “aggressive” action against bad actors.
“Kathy Kraninger’s confirmation is a significant victory for consumers everywhere,” said Gerard Scimeca, vice president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market advocacy group.
Ms. Warren said she doesn’t believe it.
“Kathy Kraninger has no interest in fighting for American families & zero experience standing up for consumers,” the senator tweeted after voting against the nominee. “Kraninger may be on the side of cheating companies — but I won’t stop fighting for working families.”
The CFPB was the highest-profile change Congress made after the 2008 Wall Street collapse, creating the new bureau with an independent director and budget and charging it with policing consumer abuses by banks and other major financial dealers.
But conservative critics said the agency is ripe for abuse, and have been angling to reel it in after what they said was overzealous action during the Obama years.
Ms. Kraninger’s opponents came from two camps. One was anti-Wall Street activists who had hoped the CFPB would be a serious foe for financial companies. The other camp is immigrant-rights activists, who say Ms. Kraninger, in a previous role at the Homeland Security Department, was involved in the zero-tolerance border policy that led to family separations earlier this year.
“Why did Republican Senators prioritize Kathy Kraninger’s confirmation during this lame-duck session of Congress when there are still so many unanswered questions about her qualifications and record? Political payback, plain and simple,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
Ms. Kraninger is just the second person confirmed to the five-year job.
The agency has been snake-bitten from the start.
Ms. Warren had hoped to be the first chief but was deemed too poisonous to survive Senate confirmation to lead the CFPB, so President Obama instead picked one of her acolytes, Richard Cordray.
He, too, met resistance — and Mr. Obama instead used recess appointment powers to stick Mr. Cordray in the role. The Supreme Court later ruled those kinds of appointments unconstitutional, but GOP senators struck a deal to approve Mr. Cordray to the post officially.
Mr. Cordray resigned last year in order to run for governor of Ohio, and tried a power-play move to install his hand-picked successor, elevating one of his disciples into the acting director’s role. But the president countered with his own pick, Mr. Mulvaney, and the courts sided with the White House.
Mr. Cordray lost his governor’s race last month.
Meanwhile the CFPB is still facing major legal hurdles.
Some federal judges have ruled that by placing so much power — including an independent budget that Congress doesn’t control — in a single director, the CFPB violates the Constitution. But a ruling earlier this year by the full U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the singe-director structure.
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