* W.House seeks to tap public frustration at Wall St
* Republicans see agency as regulatory overreach
By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON, Nov 3 The White House charged on
Thursday that the nomination of President Barack Obama's choice
to head a new consumer financial protection agency was being
"held hostage" by Republicans as it sought to tap into public
anger at Wall Street excess.
Trying to ratchet up pressure on Republicans who have
blocked Richard Cordray's Senate confirmation, administration
officials insisted Americans would be denied full safeguards
against abusive business practices until he is in place as
director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Obama and his aides have struck an increasingly populist
tone as he steps up his 2012 re-election campaign against the
backdrop of protests against corporate greed and economic
inequality that began weeks ago in New York and have spread to
Republicans opposed creation of the agency, a centerpiece
of Obama's Wall Street rules overhaul after the 2007-2009
financial markets meltdown, as a regulatory overreach and
demand changes before letting Cordray's nomination move ahead.
Obama adviser Stephanie Cutter urged Republicans to "do the
right thing by consumers" but offered no new path to
confirmation of Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, to
head an agency set up to police abuses in areas like credit
cards and mortgages.
"Part of our strategy for getting him confirmed is to point
out what we're not able to get it done because of their
obstructions," she said in a conference call she and other
administration officials held with reporters.
Cordray was nominated by Obama in July and won support of
the Senate banking committee in a vote along party lines on
Oct. 6, but Democrats have yet to set a date for a confirmation
vote by the full Senateù
Obama's choice of Cordray was meant to sidestep the
controversy he would have faced had he nominated Wall Street
critic Elizabeth Warren, who is credited with conceiving the
idea for the new consumer agency. But Cordray is considered a
close Warren ally.
In the 100-members Senate where 60 votes are required on
most issues, 44 Republicans vowed in May to block confirmation
unless the agency's leadership was changed to a board instead
of a single director and other modifications were made. "So
Richard Cordray's nomination is being held hostage by these 44
Republican senators," Cutter said.
The White House briefing was timed to coincide with a CFPB
official's congressional testimony on the need for an empowered
agency to fight financial abuses faced by military families.
Obama and his aides have used a similar approach of
accusing Republicans of obstructionism in efforts to push
through the president's $447 billion job creation plans -- a
strategy that has so far failed to make headway.
Cutter acknowledged that with just six weeks left in the
current congressional term, it might not work with Cordray's
But she brushed aside the notion that Obama would try to
put Cordray in place with a "recess appointment" to bypass
Republicans while Congress is out of session, as some of his
Democrats have urged. She also said Obama would oppose any
effort to weaken the agency.
"The sentiments that lots of people who are out there as
part of 'Occupy Wall Street' -- not just on Wall Street but on
Main Streets across the country -- those sentiments are shared
by lots of Americans," she said. "Having Richard Cordray in
place obviously would help them."
Obama -- whose poll numbers have fallen over his handling
of the stagnant economy and high unemployment -- has voiced
sympathy with the grievances of "Occupy Wall Street" but has
done so cautiously, not least because of his own economic
team's ties to the financial industry.