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Sen. Brown: I support Obama naming consumer chief

By Steve LeBlanc
Associated Press / January 4, 2012
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BOSTON—U.S. Sen. Scott Brown said he supports President Barack Obama's decision to name Richard Cordray as the nation's chief consumer watchdog despite the objections of Brown's fellow Senate Republicans.

The Massachusetts Republican said in a statement Wednesday that while he would have preferred that the appointment go through the normal confirmation process, the political system is "completely broken" in Washington.

Obama said he was tired of Senate Republicans stalling his nominee to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and put him in charge Wednesday over their opposition.

"I refuse to take `no' for an answer," Obama said.

Brown said he agreed with the Democratic president.

"I support President Obama's appointment today of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB. I believe he is the right person to lead the agency and help protect consumers from fraud and scams," Brown said in a statement.

"If we're going to make progress as a nation, both parties in Washington need to work together to end the procedural gridlock and hyper-partisanship," he added.

In 2010, Brown wrote to the president strongly urging him not to bypass the Senate when appointing someone to lead the new agency. Last year Brown also split with fellow GOP senators in calling for an up or down vote on Cordray, instead of continuing to block any Obama nominee.

Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren also praised Obama on Wednesday, calling Cordray an "exceptional choice" to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Warren, a Harvard professor and consumer advocate who is hoping to oust Brown, led the push for the new agency and was briefly considered as a candidate to head it.

"The president made every effort to present a candidate for a Senate vote, but he was right not to let Senate Republicans block full implementation of the consumer agency," Warren said in statement.

"Republicans never had any substantive objections to Mr. Cordray," she added. "Instead, Senate Republicans blocked a confirmation vote for anyone to head up the consumer agency."

Wednesday's comments put Brown further at odds with GOP leaders in Congress who suggested that the courts would determine whether Richard Cordray's appointment was illegal.

The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, accused Obama of an unprecedented power grab that "arrogantly circumvented the American people."

Obama has constitutional power to make appointments during a congressional recess.

To keep that from happening, Senate Republicans have had the Senate running in "pro forma" sessions, meaning open for business in name with no actual business planned.

The Obama White House now contends such an approach is a gimmick.

Brown, who won a special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant following the death in 2009 of longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, has tried to position himself as a moderate, independent voice in the Senate.

"I'm the most bipartisan senator in the delegation. And if not the most, one of the most bipartisan people in the entire Senate, and I take great pride in that," Brown said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Brown lists among his accomplishments his support -- along with Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine -- of a sweeping financial overhaul bill later signed by Obama.

Brown has acknowledged he's facing a tough re-election campaign.

Recent polls have shown Warren and Brown in a tight race.

Obama's decision to make the so-called "recess appointment" of Cordray to head the consumer protection agency also drew praise from Gov. Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

"Americans can't wait any longer for protection from abuses in the financial markets," said Patrick, a strong Obama supporter. "Richard Cordray is a highly qualified leader who has support from members of both parties."

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who helped shepherd a major financial regulatory bill through Congress, was more blunt in his criticism of Republicans who tried to block the Cordray appointment.

"Republicans' complaints about the president's decision to make this recess appointment are equivalent to objections leveled by arsonists at people who use the fire door to escape a burning building," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement Wednesday.

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