This article from American Banker must have been written by people who know nothing about Senate procedure.
WASHINGTON — Republicans are strongly considering using a rare procedural move to prevent President Obama from making a recess appointment to install a director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Forty-four GOP senators signed a letter last week vowing to block any nominee absent several significant changes to the bureau, a move that political analysts said all but guarantees the president will use his recess appointment powers. But Republican lawmakers are weighing tactics to make that option much less appealing or prevent it altogether by leveraging their power over other financial services nominees.
“If they were to go the recess-appointment route, I believe Senate Republican leadership would use every tool at their disposal and there would be a major response from Senate Republicans,” a Republican Senate staffer said Friday. “It could result in costs to other nominees, and I think it would ultimately affect the legitimacy of whoever is recess-appointed to run the CFPB.” [...]
Republicans are eyeing a tactic first employed by Democrats when President Bush was in power to hold “pro forma sessions” — short sessions during which no business is conducted — that prevents the Senate from being considered in “recess.” Republicans used the tactic successfully last year after agreeing to confirm 54 of the president’s nominees, but preventing him from making any recess appointments [...]
If Obama were to recess-appoint a CFPB director, Republicans could also hold up any other financial services nominees. A slate of several nominations, including the heads of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is expected soon.
OK, so here’s the deal. Republicans in the Senate cannot hold pro forma sessions. They are the minority party. They don’t control the schedule of the Senate. It’s true that last year, Republicans secured an agreement from Harry Reid to hold pro forma sessions. But read the fine print. That only happened after they confirmed 54 nominees. The whole point of this idea is, in the event of a recess appointment, Republicans would block other nominees in the financial services sector. Under similar terms of last year’s agreement, Republicans would have to allow votes on those individuals, defeating the entire purpose of the blackmail. Otherwise, Democrats are unlikely to agree to the pro forma sessions.
I’m guessing Republican aides called around to find someone, anyone, willing to buy their spin. Looks like it worked.
Meanwhile, it’s not like Republicans are speeding through Presidential nominees currently. It’s taken months to get judicial nominees confirmed. Some of them have been moving through so far this year, but this past week a relatively uncontroversial district court judge in Rhode Island needed a cloture vote (which he was able to obtain). Other Presidential nominees have lingered for months if not years. Republicans have already said they’d block any replacement for Commerce Secretary (Gary Locke is becoming the US Ambassador to China) unless Obama’s trade deals pass. This threat is empty because Republicans saying that they’ll block nominees if the President recess-appoints a CFPB director would not change the status quo of obstructionism one iota.
So this threat is empty, and should be regarded with a laugh and a recess appointment for CFPB as soon as possible. In addition, they should elevate this threat. “Republicans just sent me a letter saying that they’ll stop the business of the Senate if I dare install someone to protect consumers getting ripped off by banks and mortgage companies,” would be a sample public statement.
The one useful part of the article is the speculation that the White House would change the organizational chart of CFPB from a single director to a commission with a chairman, a la the FCC or FDIC.
Political observers said a compromise is unlikely but feasible. Some speculated the administration could find one Republican demand palatable: that the director be replaced by a commission.
“Is this something that the administration might be able to live with? I would say yes, but there some costs involved in this,” said Mark Calabria, a former top aide to Shelby. “The trade-off might be that, at the end of the day, Shelby sits down with the administration and says, ‘Well, make it a board, and in exchange we’ll let Elizabeth Warren be the chairman.’”
I don’t see that coming to pass either, to be honest, but it’s certainly a way for the White House to thread the needle. They make Warren the chairman, Republicans get two seats, and one of the other two Democratic seats goes to one of Geithner’s minions who forces a more bank-friendly approach. Now that’s certainly possible. And it should be guarded against. There’s no need for a compromise on protecting consumers.