President Obama borrowed sound rhetoric and ideas from Teddy Roosevelt when he spoke in Kansas this week.
Now, Obama should borrow sound practices from the twenty-sixth president, as he responds to the intransigence of the senators who represent Wall Street rather than Main Street.
No surprise there. While Cordray may lack some of the star power of Elizabeth Warren—who conceived of and developed the CFPB—he’s a serious consumer advocate with the right credentials and demeanor to realize the agency’s potential.
Yet, while even Republicans praise Cordray’s record, they are not interested in seeing the CFPB impose rules and regulations on the banksters and speculators who donate so generously to election campaigns.
So, while fifty-three senators (fifty Democrats, two Republicans and Independent Bernie Sanders) voted to advance the Cordray nomination, a sufficient number of Republicans objected and were able to block a confirmation vote.
President Obama was right to object, saying, “This makes no sense. Consumers across the country understand part of the reason we got into the financial mess we did is because regulators are not doing their jobs.… There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated or confirmed by the Senate and should not be doing this job.”
But he was even more right, and even more like Roosevelt, when he said: “We are not giving up on this; we’ll keep on going at it. We will not allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected from unscrupulous operators.”
Obama says no options are off the table when it comes to the fight to get Cordray into position and to get the CFPB moving.
Now it is time to move from rhetoric to action.
The president should pull a Teddy Roosevelt and make a recess appointment during the upcoming Congressional break for the holidays.
Roosevelt was known for making bold moves, especially when he was taking on the robber barons and the trusts that had their way with Washington before the dawn of the Progressive Era. He recognized that there were times when a president had to use the bully pulpit and all the powers afforded him to make a point about the corruption of both our politics and our economy.
Obama went to Kansas this week, to the community where Roosevelt delivered his historic 1910 "New Nationalism: speech, in order to reconnect with tbat authentic American populist spirit. He did so rhetorically. Now he can do so practically by appointing Cordray.
That would be a power play by Obama. But it would not be unreasonable.
The majority of senators have indicated support for Cordray’s confirmation.
The president should implement the will of the majority, explain why the move is necessary to break the gridlock in Washington, and get Richard Cordray working on behalf of consumers.