Consumer Bureau Nominee Clears Key Senate Hurdle

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Kathy Kraninger, the White House homeland security specialist who is President Trump’s nominee to be permanent director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, moved a step closer to confirmation on Thursday in a cliffhanger vote.

The Senate voted 50-49 along party lines to end debate on her nomination, which had cleared the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs panel last August in a similarly close tally.

The action sets up a final vote during the Senate’s already crowded schedule for next week.

Banking panel Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has said Kraninger “comes with significant leadership experience at federal agencies and on Capitol Hill, with particular expertise in the budget and appropriations processes. At her hearing, Ms. Kraninger reiterated her dedication to fulfilling the bureau’s congressional mandate, ensuring all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services that are fair, transparent, and competitive.”

During floor debate on Thursday, Crapo added,” I know some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been frustrated by the bureau under acting director [Mick] Mulvaney’s leadership. Given the changes at the agency over the last year . . . now is an appropriate time to reconsider the fundamental structure of the bureau.” That, in Crapo’s view, would mean creating a bipartisan commission instead of a single director, a congressional funding mechanism (rather than the Federal Reserve), and giving the bureau its own inspector general.

Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., on the floor called Kraninger “unqualified to lead the agency,” saying her comments last August showed that she seems “handpicked to undermine the agency’s mission” and that “her main goal is be a faithful disciple to Mick Mulvaney,” the White House budget director who has been doubling as acting CFPB director.

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Earlier this week, Democrats on the Banking Committee issued a report highly critical of the direction Mulvaney has taken the bureau, calling his deregulatory efforts too pro-industry. The report cited such examples as Mulvaney removing powers from the bureau’s fair lending office, reorganizing the student loan office and keeping Congress and the public “in the dark.”

It said the director's office has grown by 14.7 percent, while overall staffing has declined by 2.4 percent.

Consumer advocacy groups continued to blast the nominee. “Kathy Kraninger has no record of consumer protection or holding big banks, predatory lenders, and other financial scammers accountable,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, which has organized strong opposition to her candidacy. She has repeatedly refused to answer even the most basic questions about her record or her views on pressing consumer financial issues. The mission of the CFPB is far too important to be placed in the hands of someone who lacks candor and experience at such a fundamental level.”

Lisa Donner, executive director of the liberal Americans for Financial Reform, said on Thursday, “Kathy Kraninger has put no daylight whatsoever between herself and Mick Mulvaney, who has done his level best to dismantle from within an agency that once won real results for American families hurt by Wall Street and predatory lenders. He has subverted, not advanced, the mission of consumer protection for which Congress created the CFPB. Kraninger has promised to continue Mulvaney's destructive course.”

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