Senate Reps and Dems Butt Heads Over Procedure, with Consumers’ Protection at Stake - Page 2
Professor Adam Levitin of Georgetown Law, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Financial Services, strongly opposed the idea of committee leadership. “Switching to a five-member panel would tilt the balance at the agency to gridlock and inaction, would add unnecessary big government bloat, and would reduce accountability.”
In addition, Republicans want to fund the bureau through the congressional appropriations process. They argue that the CFPB has too little oversight and would represent a deviation from the checks-and-balances model of federal governance. The bureau’s supporters counter that such a move would significantly reduce the bureau’s independence: every other banking regulatory agency is independently funded, and relying on congressional funding would expose the agency to political gamesmanship.
A third proposed change (the “Duffy Bill,” named for Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin) would increase the FSOC’s veto power over the bureau. “The authoritarian structure of the CFPB is very troubling. This new agency has broad, far-reaching powers and these powers are all assigned to one individual…I believe in the system of checks and balances,” said Congressman Duffy. Professor Levitin, however, argues that additional FSOC oversight is counterproductive and possibly unconstitutional.
“The FSOC veto power provides an unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional check on the CFPB and should be eliminated, rather than made more stringent…Indeed, under the Duffy Bill’s standard, several laws passed by Congress in recent years, such as the Credit CARD Act would be unenforceable by regulation because the laws themselves might reduce bank safety-and-soundness (i.e., profitability)…The effect of the Duffy Bill would be to eviscerate several recent, popular, consumer financial protection statutes.”
When a Senate confirmation becomes a logjam
President Obama considers most of the Republican demands to be unpalatable. Rather than accede, he planned to appoint the CFPB director during the Senate’s next recess. Many of the president’s nominees are held up in committee: Senator Shelby, citing qualification concerns, blocked MIT economist Peter Diamond’s confirmation, just weeks before the rejected appointee received a Nobel Prize. A recess appointment allows the president to avoid the grueling process of mustering 60 Senate votes, the number necessary to end a filibuster.
But in addition to threatening to stymie President Obama’s other nominees, Senate Republicans are considering a little-known procedural maneuver to prevent the chamber from going into recess. Adjournment proceedings cannot be filibustered, but the GOP hopes to convene what is known as a pro forma session.
Pro forma sessions: how 30 seconds can last for weeks
A pro forma session is a short meeting, sometimes lasting only seconds, in which no Congressional business is conducted. The sessions are usually held to satisfy the Constitution’s requirement that no chamber of Congress can adjourn for more than three days without the other’s consent; however, according to some, they do prevent the chamber from going into recess.Continued on the next page