House Passes Bill to Revamp Consumer Agency

the Consumer Financial Freedom and Washington Accountability Act sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. the Consumer Financial Freedom and Washington Accountability Act sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. Ryan Foley/AP file photo

House Republican lawmakers, many of whom have opposed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since it was first created in 2010, have succeeded in prolonging their protest, passing a bill to remake the young agency’s leadership structure, funding and authority to track consumer data.

The House on Feb. 27 voted 232 to182 for H.R. 3193, the Consumer Financial Freedom and Washington Accountability Act sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. Aimed at promoting consumer privacy, it would curb the director’s discretion and alter the bureau’s budget by giving it an annual congressional appropriation in place of its current funding from the Federal Reserve. It would also authorize the chairman of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to set aside any regulation issued by the CFPB by majority vote.

“This is a bill about accountability and transparency," Duffy said in floor debate. “CFPB Director Richard Cordray claims that in order for the agency to do their job, they must monitor 80 percent of all credit cards in circulation, or nearly one billion credit cards…If you are here to protect the consumer, why don't you ask the consumer for permission and consent to take their information?”

Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of 250 consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, and civil rights groups, issued a statement saying, “Many millions of people have already benefited from the Consumer Bureau’s rules, enforcement actions and online complaint system” for policing the credit card and mortgage markets. “Polls show that a large majority of Americans strongly approve of what this important new agency has been doing. And yet, 232 members of the House of Representatives voted … for legislation designed to systematically undermine this first-ever federal agency with a mandate to prioritize fairness and transparency over short-term financial-industry profits.”

Former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray who is representing banking groups in a lawsuit challenging the CFPB’s structure on constitutional grounds, said after the bill’s passage that the 2010 Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act “gave the CFPB unprecedented freedom from the Constitution's checks and balances: the CFPB is not truly accountable to Congress, to the presidency, or to the courts. This legislation would make the agency much more accountable to our elected officials, and to the rule of law. Furthermore, the legislation would help prevent the agency from continuing its massive, secret ‘data grab’ of Americans' financial information.”  

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