Dave Dayen at FireDogLake says everything that needs to be said about the Cordray nomination as it currently stands:
Describing the blockade of Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a form of nullification sounds accurate to me. Cordray is almost an afterthought to this issue. Republicans disagree with the concept of a federal agency that looks out for consumers. So they plan to stop any effort to staff the agency with a director, which has the added benefit in this case of holding off consumer protection regulation of non-bank financial institutions, unless it is gutted.
Democrats and the President have an option here. They can simply force a recess appointment. The President has all the tools at his disposal to get a director in place, whether by forcing Congress to adjourn, or using the inter-session period as a recess to use his appointment power.
But the most important bit of Dayen’s post – and indeed, about the Cordray nomination and the entire tawdry fight over the CFPB itself – is this:
These [actions] may seem like power plays, but as power plays go they pale in comparison to Senate Republicans hijacking an entire agency and blocking anyone from serving as its director until their demands are met. In other words, a recess appointment would be a proportional response at this point. And Republicans would grumble about it, but I don’t see why anyone should care about that. Putting a greater spotlight on their intentions here should be the goal.
So yes, Republicans are using a nullification strategy. But it cannot be successful without Democratic toothlessness, a form of complicity. Democrats could have Cordray in place by the end of the year.
Exactly the situation, as it stands today. If either a banker-stooge nominee is substituted for Cordray, or the agency itself is neutered (as Republicans have stated is their real goal), it will have been entirely, ENTIRELY because Democrats chose not to pursue readily available, workable options to get Cordray installed. Yes, any such recess appointment would only last until the expiration of the current congress – far less than the current five year term the Director of the CFPB is supposed to hold. But once consumers and the media get a sense of what a fully-empowered CFPB can do, there won’t be any question they’ll want a strong consumer advocate helming it. The GOP know this. That’s why they’re going all-out to stop it NOW, before the horse is out of the barn. President Obama has the tools to foil them. It’s up to him – entirely – to choose to use them.