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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011


Anti-consumer vote

Senate Republicans successfully threatened a filibuster last week to block a vote on the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. The senators thus sought to keep obstructing that key agency.

The bureau aims to protect Americans from abuses by check cashers, debt collectors, payday lenders, and mortgage loan offices that take advantage of poor and less-educated consumers who use their services. It also oversees requirements that banks observe transparency in disclosing the financial-service fees they charge their clients.

GOP senators weren't concerned with Mr. Cordray's fitness for the job; he is highly respected by professional colleagues. Republicans already got President Obama to agree not to nominate someone they really dislike -- Elizabeth Warren, the designer of the new bureau who is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator in Massachusetts -- to run the agency.

The real issue is that Republicans don't want the new consumer finance bureau to have a director at all. They want to keep it toothless, because the financial institutions that contribute generously to their campaigns want to stay as free from government oversight and accountability as they can. Yet who is going to watch out for the interests of consumers?

More broadly, the obsolete and abused Senate practice of the filibuster needs to go. If Republicans tried to block such a change, which would allow the Senate to function as if it were actually a democratic institution -- that would be a good reason for Democrats to filibuster as many days and nights as necessary to remedy the problem.

This easy road to gridlock, which has made an ugly farce of Congress's pathetic floundering in the face of the nation's problems, needs to be eliminated now.

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