Obama escalates appointments crisis, claims Cordray has full powers without Senate approval

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama today escalated his claimed power to appoint top officials by announcing that his financial-sector appointee also has authority that is legally reserved only for an official who has been confirmed by the Senate.

The 2010 law that established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau includes a section that says many of the bureau’s new powers are to be held by the secretary of the Treasury “until the Director of the Bureau is confirmed by the Senate.”

Obam’s Jan. 3. claim to have appointed Cordray appears to violate the Constitution and is a grab for increased presidential power, say many constitutional lawyers.

But his new Jan. 6 claim about Cordray’s powers goes even further by contradicting the plain language of the 2010 law that created the bureau.

Section 1066 of the law says many of the bureau’s new powers are activated once the Senate confirms a director. Those extra powers include the authority to write regulations for non-bank firms, such as payday lenders.

Obama also said Friday that Cordray’s new authority include those powers.

“Now that Richard [Cordray] is your director, you can finally exercise the full power that this agency has been given to protect consumers under the law,” Obama said in a Dec. 6 visit to the CFPB. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

“Now that he’s here, irresponsible debt collectors and payday lenders, independent mortgage services and loan providers, they’re all bound by the same rules as everyone else.”

Obama’s declarations have “now escalated to arrogance on steroids,” said Roger Pilon, the founder and director of the Cato Institute’s constitutional studies center. Congress makes laws and the White House executes them, said Pilon, and Obama’s constitutional and legal claims “are a direct attack on the [Constitution’s] separation of powers principle.”

The Constitution, he said, curbs the president’s power by requiring him to win Senate approval for his top appointments. That, he said, “is a check on unbridled executive power.”

White House officials declined to answer The Daily Caller’s question about Obama’s claim to have confirmed — and not just recess-appointed — Cordray.

Instead, a White House official reiterated the unchallenged fact that a person can serve as director of the bureau after a proper recess appointment.

“The CFPB’s authorizing statute does not limit the President’s ability to exercise his constitutional power to appoint a Director during a recess,” said a statement from White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “The CFPB statute, like other statutes, makes clear that the Director is a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position, but it does not preclude a recess-appointed Director from serving.

Schultz declined to address the question of whether Obama can declared Cordray to be confirmed.

In a break from routine, White House officials did not hold a press conference today. The next conference will likely be held in three days.

During former president George W. Bush’s term in office, liberals heavily criticized him for saying the presidency affords America’s chief executive the authority to direct the nation’s foreign affairs without the agreement of the Congress. These controversies revolved around the idea of a “unitary executive,” which progressives said was a power grab.

However, “here we’re dealing with domestic issues where the president has far less independent power than in foreign affairs,” said Pilon.

This controversy created by Obama’s decisions, he said, is “a constitutional problem right from the start.”

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