WASHINGTON — President Obama was grinning Wednesday as he stood next to his freshly confirmed director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray.
He had a reason to smile. The event was Obama’s victory lap after the figurative nuclear brinksmanship in the Senate this week ended largely in the president’s favor. The CFPB is viewed by Democrats as a key part of the president’s legacy, and Obama was clearly happy to win the long fight over a permanent director.
“For two years, Republicans in the Senate refused to give Rich a simple yes or no vote. Not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place,” Obama said. “Yesterday, Richard was official confirmed.”
The Senate confirmed Cordray after Republicans backed off their plan to deny Obama a CFPB director until Democrats agreed to dramatically alter the law governing the agency. The GOP obstruction plan kept Elizabeth Warren, Obama’s first CFPB nominee, out of the job and eventually drove Warren to her successful Democratic Senate bid in Massachusetts.
The president and his allies in the Senate agreed to drop two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board in exchange for up or down votes on Cordray and other presidential nominees awaiting Senate action. The deal came after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to change the filibuster rules (the so-called “nuclear option”) if Republicans didn’t agree to hold votes. On Tuesday night, the deal resulted in the confirmation of Cordray.
On Wednesday, it resulted in a spring in Obama’s step.
“I want to thank Senators from both parties, including Senator Reid, Senator McConnell and Senator McCain for coming together to help get Rich confirmed,” Obama said as he introduced Cordray at at White House event. “Senator Reid’s leadership was obviously instrumental in getting this done and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.”
Obama made it clear he expects up or down votes like the one held for Cordray to be the rule now, rather than the exception.
“While we’re on the topic of nominations, i want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long votes that they deserve,” Obama said. “These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people.”