Rep. Raskin’s Remarks Regarding the Acting Director of the CFPB
Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) offered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery) today regarding the acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP):
With passage of the historic Dodd-Frank legislation in 2010, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an independent Federal agency to protect American consumers in the financial marketplace. Since then, the CFPB has forced big banks, credit card companies, and others to return nearly $12 billion to the American people, with more than 29 million people winning some measure of fairness against the kinds of outrageous predatory schemes that led Congress to set up the CFPB in the first place. Millions of our people have been helped on a daily basis by the CFPB in dealing with Wells-Fargo and other mega-banks scamming the people. In bureaucracy years, the CFPB is still a toddler but it is already a major public policy success story.
In designing the CFPB, Congress was careful to build structural protections for its institutional independence into the statute. The President can remove its Director only for misfeasance and neglect of office, and in the event of the Director’s absence, the statute specifies that the Deputy Director ‘shall’ become its Acting Director. In drafting this provision, Congress clearly set about to harmonize Dodd-Frank with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which states that its general provision for presidential appointment of an acting official without a Senate vote in the event of a vacancy does not apply to agencies where “a statutory provision … designates an officer or employee to perform the functions and duties of a specified office temporarily in an acting capacity.” The statutory delegation of leadership authority over the CFPB to the Deputy Director in the event of the Director’s absence serves precisely this statutory purpose.
Now, in order to thwart the independence of the CFPB and undo the lawful statutory accession of Leandra English to the acting directorship at the CFPB, President Trump has purported to name Mick Mulvaney, his Office of Management and Budget Director, as the Acting Director of the CFPB. This effort is plainly in violation of the express statutory provisions governing the appointment of an Acting Director, which is why a high burden of hope rests on the federal Judiciary today to do its job fairly and speedily to enforce the law as written. If Mulvaney wants to be director of the CFPB, President Trump can nominate him and he can go through the constitutional process of advice and consent in the United States Senate. This is the lawful way to do it if they are serious about this deeply suspicious and provacative appointment.
In a political sense, of course, the so-called appointment of the OMB Director as acting director of the CFPB is a naked effort to destroy the independence of the Bureau and to neutralize it as a proactive force for consumers in the financial sector. Mick Mulvaney voted against the CFPB, seeks to repeal its very existence, calls it a “sad, sick joke,” and has now been sent there to vaporize it as the principal agency of consumer financial protection for the American people. With Mulvaney detailed to the CFPB working alongside Secretaries Betsy DeVos, who is trashing the Department of Education, and Scott Pruitt, who is ravaging the EPA, President Trump has temporarily succeeded in putting the Joker, the Riddler and the Penguin in charge of Gotham City.
Not only does ordering President Trump’s OMB Director Mulvaney to moonlight as the CFPB director contradict the plain language of the CFPB statute but it also makes a mockery of the idea of an independent Federal agency. If Trump can disregard the law in this way, he can name his son-in-law Jared Kushner as Acting Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and Kellyanne Conway as Acting Chair of the Federal Election Commission. Hell, the President can name himself as acting Chair of the Federal Communications Commission so he can take care of the press, the ‘enemy of the people’ directly.
James Madison said that the very definition of tyranny was the collapse of all powers into one, and that is precisely what the President’s actions threaten to accomplish here.
Tom Paine said that, in the monarchies, the King was law, but in the democracies, the law would be King.
We are trusting the federal courts to restore the law to its proper place. We have no Kings here, no royalty in politics, government or Finance, no Titles of Nobility in Washington or on Wall Street. Here, the people rule and government must always be an instrument for the public good and not a plaything for the high and mighty. The public and Congress are watching closely as we insist that the Court restore the rule of law and the public interest.