Sen. Rob Portman has been conferring with Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as part of an effort to clear the way for his Senate confirmation and avert a Democratic threat to use the “nuclear option” to curb filibusters.
A senior GOP aide said Tuesday that the Ohio Republican had talks with Cordray in recent weeks and had brought together some Democratic and Republican senators to seek common ground on changes within the CFPB that could address GOP concerns about the independent financial regulatory agency.
For example, the aide said, Portman suggested the idea of creating an inspector general within the CFPB.
It’s unclear whether such changes would satisfy broader concerns among Republicans about the agency created under the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul (PL 111-203). GOP senators filibustered against Cordray’s confirmation in 2011 and are opposing him again after President Barack Obama installed him under a recess appointment in January 2012 and then renominated him this year.
Cordray visited the Senate on May 23 and snagged Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, a senior Banking Committee member, just off the Senate floor. Shelby made clear to Cordray his concerns about whether Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada would engineer a mid-session Senate rule change to impasse on Obama’s renomination of Cordray.
“I hope he wouldn’t use it,” Shelby said. “But if he does, that changes the whole Senate.”
In a brief interview while meeting on Capitol Hill with Republicans skeptical about his confirmation, Cordray made clear that he had no information on the timing of a Senate vote or any efforts to clear the way. A CFPB spokesman declined comment on the meetings or his stance on changes sought by Portman.
Shelby’s query to Cordray underscored the tensions on both sides of the aisle as top party leaders spar over Reid’s threat to use tough parliamentary tactics to break a GOP blockade and nominations. Reid has made clear that he is taking a hard look at the nuclear option — allowing a simple majority vote, rather than the usual 67-vote threshold — to change Senate rules by sustaining or overturning a parliamentary ruling by the presiding officer.
“The Republicans have obstructed the president’s nominees,” Reid said last week. “This has created an unworkable standard where minor issues are raised to block major nominees or require a 60-vote supermajority for nomination. I hope things work out in the Senate [so] that we don’t have to go through any more procedural battles here, but things are not working well.”
Reid cited Cordray and several other contentious nominations as examples of alleged GOP obstruction. They include Thomas Perez for Labor secretary, Gina McCarthy for Environmental Protection Agency administrator and three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
Cordray and the three NLRB members sit below Cabinet secretary rank, but they have emerged as major figures in the confirmation standoff between Republicans and Democrats.