July 18, 2011 in Nation/World

Obama picks ex-Ohio attorney general to lead consumer agency

Jim Kuhnhenn Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Reigniting a partisan fight over banking regulations, President Barack Obama intends to nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead a consumer protection bureau that was a central feature of a law overhauling the rules that govern the financial sector.

Obama plans to formally announce the nomination today, the White House said Sunday. Republicans immediately threatened to block Cordray’s Senate confirmation.

In choosing Cordray, Obama bypassed Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of consumer groups who has been assembling the agency as a special adviser to the White House and to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will officially begin its oversight and regulatory work on July 21. Its role is to be a government watchdog over mortgages, credit cards and other forms of lending.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, promised Sunday, “I will move Mr. Cordray’s nomination forward in the Banking Committee as quickly as possible.”

Warren, who is considered the architect of the consumer bureau, faced stiff Republican opposition in the Senate and would have had a difficult time winning confirmation.

The financial industry lined up against Warren. Bankers said a Warren-run agency would restrict new products just when companies are seeking to replace profits squeezed by the new financial rules.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said Republicans would block Cordray as well unless Obama seeks changes in the agency.

“Until President Obama addresses our concerns by supporting a few reasonable structural changes, we will not confirm anyone to lead it,” Shelby said. “No accountability, no confirmation.”

Cordray, 52, is considered a Warren ally and has been working with her as director of enforcement for the agency.

“He will make a stellar director,” Warren said of Cordray.

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