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Timothy Geithner urges Senate to confirm consumer bureau nominee

December 1, 2011 |  2:35 pm

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials

After meeting with top officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner urged Senate Republicans to stop blocking the nomination of the agency's first director.

"I guess I'd ask the question, 'Who are they protecting?' " Geithner said of Senate Republicans. "They're not protecting consumers."

Geithner appeared before reporters with the officials, including Richard Cordray, the agency's enforcement director and President Obama's nominee to be its director. Nearly all Senate Republicans are blocking Cordray from receiving a confirmation vote because they want the Obama administration to agree to changes that would weaken the agency's authority.

Without a director, the bureau cannot exercise any of the new consumer protection powers granted to it in the financial reform legislation enacted last year. The agency has taken over from other regulators the consumer protection responsibility for banks, but cannot enforce new rules for non-bank financial institutions, such as mortgage brokers and payday lenders.

"It makes no sense for us to run a country where in effect there's two Americas for consumer protection," Geithner said. "There's a much higher standard for consumer protection for people who do business with banks, but much weaker standards of protection and enforcement for people who do business with entities that are not banks."

The Obama administration has been trying to pressure Republicans to stop their filibuster of Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general who would be confirmed by the Senate's Democratic majority if a vote were allowed. But Republicans have shown no signs of budging on their blockade, which will probably leave the agency without a confirmed director until after next year's presidential election.

The consumer bureau -- the controversial centerpiece of the sweeping overhaul of financial rules -- began operations in July. It is being headed by Raj Date, a special advisor to Geithner, until a permanent director is confirmed.

Geithner met with Date, Cordray and Holly Petraeus, the head of the agency's Office of Servicemember Affairs, on Thursday to discuss their early efforts, such as streamlining mortgage disclosure forms.


Consumer agency will defend service members' pocketbooks

Obama urges Senate to OK Richard Cordray as financial watchdog

Senate Republicans vow to block any appointee to head consumer bureau

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, center, meets with Richard Cordray, right, President Obama's nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and interim director Raj Date. Credit: Getty Images