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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Has a New Mission: Protecting America From “Burdensome Regulations”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28:  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a protest in front of the 
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) headquarters on November 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sen. Warren is demanding that Mick Mulvaney step aside and let acting CFPB director Leandra English do her job. President Trump named Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney to replace outgoing CFPB Director Richard Cordray.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a November protest of Mick Mulvaney’s appointment to be interim director of the CFPB. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Another day, another federal agency determined to undo the rules it was designed to write and enforce.

The latest is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the crisis-era creation of Sen. Elizabeth Warren charged with investigating the deceptive practices of lenders, wire services, auto dealers, credit card companies, and so on. The banking watchdog’s mission statement now lists its first order of business as hunting down “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations.”

Slate has reached out to the CFPB for comment, but the change can likely be traced to the arrival of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, who took over the CFPB on Nov. 27. The South Carolina Republican is also the director of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget, and as the Intercept’s Dave Dayen reports, has quickly moved to fill the ranks of the CFPB with Trump loyalists. (Meanwhile, there is an ongoing legal battle over the director’s chair, to which Obama-era Deputy Director Leandra English also has a claim.)

“Mick Mulvaney’s new slogan shows that he’s more interested in doing the bidding of big banks than standing up for American families,” Warren said in a statement to Slate. “That’s disgraceful.”

Asking Mulvaney to head the CFPB is like having a cat guard a can of tuna: An agent destined not to fail to protect the thing in question, but to lustily destroy it. As my colleague Jordan Weissmann wrote last month, Mulvaney is “not a fan of regulations or regulators, and especially not the CFPB.” He has called the agency a “sick, sad” joke. While a member of the House, he tried to eliminate it. In an interview with the Washington Post this month, shortly after assuming control of the 1,600-person office, he said he supported efforts by House Republicans to block a CFPB rule targeting payday lender fees.

Mulvaney is the latest federal administrator—along with EPA chief Scott Pruitt, HUD chief Ben Carson, and DOE head Betsy DeVos—who appears to be ideologically opposed to the mission of the agency he’s appointed to run. Lucky for him, he’s in a position to change it.

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