Richard Cordray, Ohio’s former attorney general, is at the center of a bitter feud over the so-called “nuclear option” — a change to the Senate’s filibuster rules that Democratic leaders are considering amid their frustration over GOP stalling tactics.
Republicans have blocked an up-or-down vote on Cordray’s nomination to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since 2011, when President Obama first put Cordray’s name forward for the post. (Obama has since used his recess appointment powers to install Cordray as head of the financial watchdog agency.)
Cordray is just one of several nominees Democrats want approved. But he was a focus of debate Thursday, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky traded nasty barbs over the logjam on White House nominees.
“The man’s been waiting 724 days” for a vote, Reid said of Cordray.
Reid moved to force a showdown on Cordray and other nominees-in-waiting early next week. The action comes as Reid is considering whether to force through a change to the Senate’s rules, which currently require 60 votes to end a filibuster.
Some Democrats want a simple 51 majority threshold for executive branch nominations, to break what they say is unprecedented GOP obstruction of Obama’s appointees. Republicans oppose the move, saying they are not blocking nominees but exercising their right to review such appointments.
“We are working through these nominations,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “The Senate was meant to be a body that was more deliberate … That’s the way the founders intended it to be.”
Using the nuclear option, he said, would change the nature of the Senate. “And it’s not needed,” Portman said.
Portman said he has been working on a deal to pave the way for an up-or-down vote on Cordray. Portman and other Republicans don’t oppose Cordray, who they say is qualified for the job. But they say the agency he heads is unaccountable and too powerful.
Portman said he’s been in high-level negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats, trying to win support for changes to consumer protection agency in exchange Cordray’s confirmation.
But in tweet Thursday, the White House’s Amy Brundage wrote: “We do NOT support R efforts to weaken @CFPB, the Sen has refused 2 confirm Cordray despite his qualifications & work 4 consumers.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters that he supports changing the filibuster rules for nominees.
The delays are “just far more than we’ve seen in the past,” he said. And on Cordray, he said, the Republicans are “doing Wall Street’s bidding to change the agency, and that’s just wrong.”