Republicans on Thursday blocked the Senate from voting on the nomination of Richard Cordray to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Supporters of Cordray's nomination came up seven votes short of the 60 needed to bring Cordray's nomination to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. The final tally was 53-45, with only one Republican, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, voting to cut off debate. Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine) voted present.
Snowe was one of several Republicans targeted this week by the White House in an extraordinary push to get Cordray's nomination confirmed. Nearly all Senate Republicans vowed in the spring they would not allow a vote on any nominee to head the controversial bureau unless Democrats and President Obama agreed to some key changes in its structure to weaken its authority.
The changes include replacing the single director with a bipartisan commission, subjecting the agency's budget to the congressional appropriation process and making it easier for other banking regulators to veto new consumer protection rules.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said the changes were designed to limit what he called the agency's "unbridled, unprecedented authority."
"This notion that we're against consumer protection, that we're trying to gut the CFPB is just silly," Vitter said.
But that's exactly what Democrats charged Republicans with doing in continuing to block the nomination of Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general. Democrats noted that the agency cannot use many of its powers, including overseeing non-bank financial institutions such as mortgage brokers and payday lenders, without a Senate-confirmed director.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said the vote showed that "more than 40 of my colleagues chose Wall Street special interests over Main Street consumers. They should be ashamed of themselves."
[Updated at 9:40 a.m.: President Obama blasted Republicans for blocking Cordray's nomination and said he is considering installing him in the job if Congress goes out on a formal recess over the holidays.
"We are not giving up on this," Obama told reporters during an appearance in the White House briefing room shortly after the vote. "We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected by unscrupulous financial operators. And we're going to keep on pushing on this issue."
Obama said he would look at all options, including a recess appointment, which would allow Cordray to serve for a year without the support of Congress. But all year Republicans have been blocking Congress from going on a formal recess.]
-- Jim Puzzanghera and Christi Parsons in Washington
Photo: Richard Cordray, the nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Credit: Getty Images