Richard Cordray: Obama Invokes the Teddy Roosevelt Option

When the Senate Republicans filibustered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee Richard Cordray, I gave ‘em credit for honesty. Cordray, they admitted, was a fine and dandy public servant. But the CFPB shouldn’t exist. If the GOP couldn’t get rid of it, well, it could at least prevent it from installing a chairman. “I think the creation of this particular organization in this form was a legislative disaster,” explained Sen. Richard Lugar, rarely the first Republican to kick over a negotiating table. “It’s not a question of the merits of the nominee. It’s a question of accountability.”

Barack Obama will tell you where to stick your “accountability.”

The Obama administration plans to use its executive authority to install Richard Cordray as head of a federal consumer watchdog agency in a defiant move after the Senate rejected the nomination last month, a White House official confirmed Wednesday.

The going theory among Republicans was that Obama couldn’t and wouldn’t do this. Why? In order to break, in order for there to be a true recess, both Houses need to agree on a resolution of adjournment. Since May 2011, House Republicans have refused to do so. Instead, they’ve set up pro forma sessions – every three days, the House must be gaveled in, and that’s it. No action, no legislation. Republicans did this and pointed out that no president since Teddy Roosevelt had tried to ram nominees through in anything less than a multi-week recess.

Republicans are responding like you’d expect them to. Speaker Boehner is representative.

This is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department. The precedent that would be set by this cavalier action would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our Constitution.

This is mostly cant. 1) It’s not “entirely unprecedented,” because the administration (as ThinkProgress blogger Ian Millhiser has argued for weeks) was xeroxing a ploy by Teddy Roosevelt. 2) Same with “centuries.” 3) How does anyone in Congress type the phrase “checks and balances” without collapsing in a giggle-heap? Republicans were effectively nullifying the leadership of an agency created by a previous Congress because, dagnabbit, they wished it hadn’t been created.

I don’t see any new options or arguments here for a GOP that’s already in full-time revolt against the White House’s appointments. Maybe we’ll see a lawsuit, but we won’t see it reverse Obama’s move. (Also, as my colleague Matthew Yglesias points out, the cluster-fark over the CFPB ended up producing a good U.S. Senate candidate in Elizabeth Warren. Cordray was a spare. Warren, today, is fundraising off of the promotion-by-force of her replacement.)