Republicans on Capitol Hill are attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with renewed zeal following Director Rohit Chopra’s attempt to force the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to solicit comments on bank merger policies.
But efforts to overhaul the CFPB likely will be stymied.
Republicans have long hated the consumer bureau, which they contend should be abolished or at least governed by a commission rather than a single director. However they have been able to do little about it, since any legislative attempt to neuter the agency would require 60 votes in the Senate—an impossible task for such a legislative initiative.
The closest they have come was during the Trump Administration when the agency directors began dismantling the regulatory regime constructed by former Director Richard Cordray, an Obama Administration appointee.
Now, with the agency in the hands of Democrat Rohit Chopra, the agency has taken a less pro-business stance.
Earlier this month, Chopra tried to convince the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation board to solicit comments on bank merger rules. He had the votes to do it, but FDIC Chairwoman Jelena McWilliams, who controls the FDIC agenda, refused to authorize the agency to request comment on the rules.
Republicans were outraged by the attempt by Chopra.
“If the need for a commission at the CFPB was not clear before, it certainly is now,” House Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee ranking Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri said. “Director Chopra is not only weaponizing the CFPB to attack U.S. industries, but he is now trying to control an entirely different regulatory agency.”
He added, “Perhaps Mr. Chopra mistook the word ‘director’ for ‘dictator.’ While a dictatorship might be the goal of this Administration and the Democratic Party, this is still the United States and he must follow our laws and procedures.”
Senate Republicans were just as livid, urging President Biden to chastise Chopra and FDIC Director Martin Gruenberg for their effort.
“We therefore urge you to rebuke Director Chopra and Director Gruenberg for their attempt to politicize the FDIC and compromise its neutrality and independence by disregarding its bylaws and its historical practice of
conducting agency business through the chairman,” Senate Banking Committee Republicans wrote in a letter to Biden.
Shortly before leaving for the year, Luetkemeyer and House Financial Services Committee Republicans translated their anger into legislation, introducing a bill that would remove the CFPB director from the FDIC board and impose term limits on board membership.
“The recent actions of Director Chopra and Director Gruenberg illustrate that the FDIC Board of Directors is in serious need of reform,” Luetkemeyer said. “Mr. Gruenberg first served on the Board during the George W. Bush-era and has been sitting on the Board for nearly twenty years, with no end to his tenure in sight. He has not been through the nomination or confirmation process since 2012.”