Consumer Bureau Nominee Narrowly Clears Divided Senate Panel

Republicans praised CFPB nominee Kathy Kraninger for goal of making the agency more transparent and accountable. Republicans praised CFPB nominee Kathy Kraninger for goal of making the agency more transparent and accountable. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The White House budget official with a specialty in homeland security nominated to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau squeaked by the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. The vote was 13-12, with all Democrats opposed.

Republicans praised Kathy Kraninger’s management experience and goals of making the eight-year-old agency—whose creation after the 2008 financial crisis many of them opposed—more “transparent and accountable.”

Democrats questioned her lack of experience in consumer finance, her ties to acting director Mick Mulvaney and her decision not to release documents related to her work on recent issues such as President Trump’s border crackdown and the government’s response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico.

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“Ms. Kraninger comes with significant leadership experience at federal agencies and on Capitol Hill, with particular expertise in the budget and appropriations processes,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs panel.

“I have the utmost confidence that she is well prepared to lead the bureau in enforcing federal consumer financial laws, protecting consumers’ sensitive personal financial information, expanding access to credit, and making the bureau more transparent and accountable,” he added, reminding Democrats that the documents they sought about her work in the White House were “related to a deliberative process” that no presidential administration would release.

Ranking Member Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Kraninger, among other nominees considered at the executive session, “is in a class by herself. She has no relevant experience in finance or consumer protection, and has refused to answer questions about her record or intentions. What she has told us is that she won’t be an independent advocate for American consumers—the entire job she is supposed to do.”

Kraninger declined to point to any areas in which she disagreed with Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director who has been doubling as head of the bureau and altering the direction it took under original director Richard Cordray.

Brown, joined in speeches by several Democrats, faulted the bureau’s “recent changes in oversight of shady lenders that cheat our service members.” He added:  “The scammers on Wall Street and down the road from Fort Bragg and Wright [Patterson Air Force Base] are now cheering at the possibility of getting Mr. Mulvaney’s protégé as permanent director.”

Consumer groups have been lining up against the Kraninger nomination all summer. “As the nation marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 financial crash that cost millions of Americans their homes, jobs and savings, America deserves a consumer champion,” said Bartlett Naylor, financial policy advocate at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division. “Instead, Kraninger threatens continued deconstruction of the CFPB, begun by the agency’s interim director Mick Mulvaney.”

“Kathy Kraninger’s career has been marked by too many examples of mismanagement for her nomination to warrant serious consideration let alone advancement with so many unanswered questions,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, which has filed a court case to force release of Office of Management and Budget documents on her work. “Whether it was bungling the terrorist watch list during the Bush administration or her ties to Trump’s family separation immigration policy and his disastrous response to the crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Kraninger’s abysmal record should not be rewarded with a promotion.”

Mulvaney, after Trump nominated Kraninger in June, issued a statement saying, “From navigating and interpreting how the federal government supports and regulates financial services for key stakeholders to helping stand up a brand-new federal agency when she was at the Department of Homeland Security in its earliest days, she has the kind of experience Washington so desperately needs. I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to make it more accountable, effective and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship."

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