On January 24, at a Wall Street Journal event in Washington DC (video here), Cordray was asked about his job security amidst the change in administration. He explained that he intends to serve the remainder of his five-year term despite calls from Republican lawmakers for his removal. Cordray, who became the CFPB’s first-ever Director in 2013, explained that his term straddles two presidential terms by design. The reason? To ensure the independence of the position and the agency and to avoid partisan politics.
Cordray also insisted that the CFPB will continue enforcing consumer protection rules at a vigorous pace and that the arrival of the Trump administration “shouldn’t change the job at all.”
His remarks regarding future CFPB rulemaking were less clear. Cordray was asked whether the memo Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, issued on January 20, which called for a freeze on all regulations issued by executive agencies applies to the CFPB. Cordray said that the CFPB is “still digesting [the] orders” and that he would “leave it to the lawyers.”
Cordray’s position as CFPB Director has been subject to tremendous scrutiny over the past few months. Numerous GOP lawmakers have encouraged President Donald Trump to fire Cordray and rein in the CFPB.
On January 12, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump had interviewed Randy Neugebauer, a former Texas Republican Representative, for the role of CFPB Director. While in Congress, Neugebauer introduced legislation designed to reform the Bureau’s leadership structure, replacing the single-director-structure with a bi-partisan commission.
On January 17, Senators Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren and others sent an open letter to Director Cordray praising his accomplishment as Director of the consumer watchdog agency. Democratic Senators have also voiced their opposition to any attempts to remove him before his term ends in July 2018. American Banker reported that Senators Schumer, Brown and Warren have suggested that Director Cordray would file a lawsuit to challenge any attempt by Trump to remove before the end of his term.
GOP appeals for Cordray’s removal have only increased after the DC Circuit’s October ruling that declared the CFPB’s single-director-removable-only-for-cause structure unconstitutional. The CFPB has filed a petition for rehearing and awaits the next step in the legal battle. Cordray has said that the DC Circuit “will render the final legal option here and whatever they say, I’m sure we will all abide by.”
Though Cordray and the CFPB appear willing to wait for the results of the appeal, there are some Republican lawmakers who believe the ruling gives President Trump the power to fire Cordray at will immediately.
President Trump has not specifically addressed Cordray’s status as CFPB Director, but several of his aides have spoken out against the agency. President Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin said that the CFPB should be preserved but that the agency’s budget should be subject to Congressional appropriations.
At his confirmation hearing on January 24, Representative Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s nominee to run the Office of Management and Budget said the CFPB’s structure is “one of the most offensive concepts” in the US government.
And earlier this week, when asked whether Trump will seek to remove Cordray, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that “no decision has been made at this time.”
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