The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finally has a director

Jen Miller

The Senate finally confirmed Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday.

He'd been acting as temporary director since January 2012.

It's been a long path through a politically fraught minefield to get anyone in the director's chair since the bureau was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act three years ago this month.

Republicans and bank lobbyists have fought the bureau every step of the way for this simple reason: It protects consumers and makes it harder for big banks to bilk them of their money.

The environment was so toxic that President Obama didn't even bother to nominate the Harvard law professor who had originally proposed creating such a bureau.

Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken consumer advocate and critic of the financial industry, had absolutely no chance of being confirmed.

Of course, Warren went on to run for the Senate — and won. Now she's taking on the banks as a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and presided over Cordray's confirmation yesterday.

“It is a truly historic day,” Warren told reporters just before the vote was taken. “There’s no doubt that the consumer agency will survive beyond the crib. There is now no doubt that the American people will have a strong watchdog in Washington.”

The only way Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, got into the position as temporary director was because President Obama put him there as a recess appointment.

It's taken this long for the Senate to table the debate about his appointment and let it proceed.

And we only reached this point after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, threatened to change the chamber's filibuster rules if Republicans didn't relent and stop blocking dozens of Obama appointments, including Cordray's.

Even though Cordray has been acting as the unofficial director, making him the official director will end all of the legal uncertainty that has hampered the bureau.

It's now fully empowered to regulate lenders, from the biggest banks to the smallest payday loan stores, and to oversee the terms of mortgages, student loans and other consumer debt.

Cordray's confirmation will also put an end to Republican demands that the director's position be abolished and replaced with a board of directors — just a sneaky way to put bankers in charge of the bureau.

Let's be absolutely clear.

If the CFPB had been in place 10 years ago, the reckless lending that led to the financial crisis of 2008 would never have happened, and millions of Americans would have not lost their homes.

All of us will benefit from this.