Political News

Watchdog agency architect Barney Frank disagrees with Mulvaney appointment

Posted November 27, 2017 8:15 a.m. EST
Updated November 27, 2017 10:25 a.m. EST

— Former Rep. Barney Frank, one of the architects of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said Monday that "clearly the deputy director" should be given interim control of the agency amid a fight between the Trump administration and agency officials over the bureau's leadership.

The bureau has been roiled by a leadership fight over the past several days. President Donald Trump on Friday named his director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, as acting director of the consumer watchdog agency hours after the outgoing director, Richard Cordray, appointed his own successor. Lawyers for Leandra English, whom Cordray named the acting director, has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the appointment of Mulvaney.

Republicans have argued the CFPB is a "rogue" agency because it's not funded by Congress and it's run by a single director who can't be fired by the president at will.

"When we wrote the law creating the CFPB, we deliberately tried to give it some protection from the normal process," Frank told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day." "We knew that the vacancy law said, in other words, the vacancy law was already on the books, the one (Trump) is claiming. We, knowing that was on the books, wrote a different law later. Ordinarily, the later law that is more specifically tailored to the particular situation that covers it."

The Massachusetts Democrat said that regulating banks is "very sensitive politically" and the architects of the consumer protection agency sought to safeguard the bureau from political interference. "In this case, because we knew that fighting large financial interests on behalf of consumers was going to put you in the battlefield every day, we did do deliberately special protections."

"Here's the key point here," Frank continued. "We gave a five-year term, removable by the President only for cause. So, the reason we added this piece is this, if you want to have a five-year term, you want to say, well, what happens to the guy who gets hit by a car? You don't want the autonomy to end. So, the purpose of this statute was so that the five-year term continues for five years, even if there was a problem with the head of the agency physically or in any other way."

Frank also sought to rebut critics of the watchdog agency and accused Republicans of trying to undermine it administratively because, he said, the agency is too popular to kill with legislation.

"In all the years since we created it -- it has been in existence more than five years now -- they do not give one single example of abuse. They talk about an agency that is out of control, it's a bureaucratic monster. You would think there would be some horror stories. You would think they would say, 'And here's what they did wrong. It created this sort of problem.' You will not find -- and I hope people will ask these critics -- what is an example of what they did wrong?"

Regarding Mulvaney -- a staunch critic of the CFPB -- Frank said, "This isn't something you can run on your lunch hour, even if you are in favor of it."

"The point is this -- they would very much like to weaken the law, but they would need enough votes to beat a filibuster. This is too popular. So, Senate Republicans aren't trying to undermine this by the legislative process because they know it would be unpopular. They are saying, 'Hey, don't make me go out and vote in favor of Wells Fargo against people who are protecting them.' That's why they are going at it through the administrative way, so it is part of the effort."