Richard Cordray

[Editor's Note: Watch this hearing live]

On the first day back for Congress, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Richard Cordray, nominated to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is one of the odder confirmation hearings in a while, because Republicans have explicitly stated that they would not confirm Cordray or anyone else to the bureau unless it is essentially gutted and sapped of the ability to be effective. It is typically the case for a lot of Presidential appointments that the nominee has no chance of being confirmed, but here it’s so obvious, and the problem not with Cordray but the underlying agency, that it turns the confirmation process into a farce.

And Cordray is playing along with the usual rhetorical concessions in order to get nominated, as if this is a legitimate hearing:

President Obama’s controversial nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will tell the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that the bureau should resort to lawsuits when necessary but it should resort to court use only after careful consideration.

“If people are ignoring or evading consumer protections laws – and seeking to gain an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors – then litigation is an essential tool, and we will use it judiciously,” Richard Cordray will say at his confirmation hearing according to prepared remarks.

“I know from my own experience that lawsuits can be a very slow, wasteful, and needlessly acrimonious way to resolve a problem,” he will say.

I love how Cordray is a “controversial” nominee. Why? Because Republicans don’t think there should be a CFPB? How exactly does that make Cordray controversial?

And then you have the difference between the two parties with respect to norms. One, the Democrats, are following the usual norms in this situation. The nominee is making rhetorical concessions about litigation, making the obvious point that it’s not the answer to every single problem. It’s depressing that you have a former Attorney General debased into saying this, but whatever. It’s just more of a rhetorical bone. But on the other side, rather than accept the bone, and go through the motions of objection, and even obstruct if they so choose, Republicans have opted out of the whole kabuki theater. They’re just not going to allow a nominee. And they’ve successfully gotten through an entire August recess without a recess appointment from the President, having forced pro forma sessions in the Senate. So all they have to do is say no, and they can essentially kneecap the CFPB permanently. Remember that without a director, CFPB cannot regulate non-bank financial institutions, per statute.

You have one side doing the usual bowing and scraping, and the other side breaking the fourth wall and refusing to play in the kabuki game. This is a familiar dynamic in modern politics.