Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Breaking a political stalemate, helping consumers

In general, presidents should not circumvent the Senate confirmation process and make appointments when Congress is in recess to avoid a political fight. The confirmation process serves a legitimate role in vetting key presidential appointments, and recess appointments should be rare. That said, President Barack Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the new consumer protection agency is defensible as well as a political maneuver to break a stalemate that has nothing to do with Cordray.

The move enables the federal government to begin enforcing the most meaningful protections in the Dodd-Frank law aimed at halting the worst abuses of payday lenders, mortgage service companies and others in the financial industry. Obama's timing also amounts to a constitutional challenge over when Congress is in session and when it is faking it to block recess appointments that are allowed by the Constitution.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank legislation in 2010 has been working mostly around the edges, supervising mortgage lending and banking fees. The law expressly reserved any broad new regulation of both banks and nonbank financial services until the appointment of a permanent agency head, and Senate Republicans have refused to confirm any appointment unless the agency's authority and independence is compromised. Cordray is a reasonable choice with solid credentials, and now the bureau can start targeting unfair or deceptive trade practices by firms offering a host of consumer products, from mortgages and short-term loans to charge cards and debt relief services.

Many of these products have long capitalized on opaque and confusing lending terms, preying on consumers who have few alternatives when faced with immediate needs for cash or credit. The new agency already has begun work to simplify some loan applications, and over time its oversight of the industry should help consumers get the information needed to make smarter financial choices.

Maximizing the full force of consumer protections that have been the law of the land and doing it under the direction of a leader that Democrats and Republicans alike agree is qualified should not be controversial. But Republicans reacted furiously Wednesday, claiming the recess appointment is unconstitutional because a handful of Republicans have met over the holidays to keep Congress in pro-forma session. The administration dismissed the sessions as sham attempts to block Obama's nominees from taking their posts, and the courts likely will decide that disagreement.

Obama announced Cordray's appointment Wednesday at what was an overt political rally in the swing state of Ohio and clearly picked a fight with Republicans as he gears up his re-election campaign. Neither side has clean hands; Senate Democrats played the same games to bar President George W. Bush from making recess appointments. But this standoff never should have reached this point. The Republicans' opposition is not to Cordray but to the safety net that installing him creates for consumers. That is a fight that voters should resolve in November's elections. Now the nation is best served by following through with an existing law to protect consumers and instill faith in the financial system — even if it requires a recess appointment by the president to get moving.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17