August 2, 2011 / 9:45 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 1-U.S. Congress plans to block consumer agency job

* Obama has nominated former Ohio AG Richard Cordray

* Senate Republicans have threatened to block nominee

* Democrats have urged Obama to use recess appointment (Adds Senate hearing postponed, background)

By Dave Clarke

WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans plan to block President Barack Obama from appointing a director for the new U.S. consumer agency over the August congressional recess.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed on Tuesday that the Senate would not fully recess for the August break. Instead, it would hold several “pro forma” sessions that prevent so-called “recess appointments.”

Obama nominated former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray in June to be the first person to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the most contentious parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law.

Democrats and Republicans are feuding over when or whether to confirm Cordray.

Senate Republicans have promised to block a vote on his nomination unless the agency is led by a board instead of a director, its budget is approved by Congress, and other regulators have more say in its oversight of banks.

Democrats have argued that such changes would weaken the agency, and some of them have urged Obama to exercise his authority to appoint Cordray without a Senate vote when Congress goes on a weeks-long break this month.

“I will continue to fight to stop the president from appointing far left ideologues,” Republican Senator David Vitter said in a statement on Tuesday. “If the president had his way, this super bureaucracy would be under the supervision of a credit czar who could do serious damage to our still fragile economy.”

The agency is charged with policing products like mortgages and credit cards to help prevent the kinds of problems in lending markets that contributed to the financial crisis.

Recess appointments tend to inflame partisan tensions with lawmakers complaining that the president is circumventing the senate’s authority to discuss and vote on nominees.

The Senate Banking Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on Cordray’s nomination on Thursday, but on Tuesday the committee announced the meeting is being postponed until Sept. 6.

House Republican leaders forced the issue of preventing a recess appointment by deciding to have the House technically stay in session for part of the August recess, which showed they would not allow the Senate to fully go on its own break.

Under the Constitution for either chamber to go on more than a three day break the other chamber has to give its approval.

Reporting by Dave Clarke, editing by Bernard Orr

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