Erixon is a junior politics and rhetoric double major and can be contacted at email@example.com
Last Thursday the Senate banking committee voted to approve former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the director of the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ordinarily, this would mean Cordray is one step closer to being confirmed but these are not ordinary times.
Despite Cordray’s unquestionable credentials and committee approval, he has very little chance at being confirmed by the full Senate. In fact, if the Republicans have their way, his nomination may never even come up for a vote. Republican leaders in the Senate have pledged to do all in their power to block Cordray and any other candidate for the CFPB.
Years ago, when government worked and our leaders respected each other, whenever the President would nominate someone to fill a cabinet post or a judgeship, their professional qualifications would be all that mattered. Starting with Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination in 1987, that all changed.
Confirmation hearings have become increasingly partisan and all aspects of our government are suffering. One in eight federal judgeships are currently vacant and in President Obama’s first 18 months in office only 47 percent of his nominees were confirmed. At the current rate that retiring or deceased judges are being replaced, as many as half of all federal judgeships could be empty by the end of this decade.
This is a disturbing trend that both Democrats and Republicans are complicit in, however the recent Republican revolution in Congress has pushed it into overdrive. Since the Tea Party’s wave of victory in 2010, the very idea of responsible governance has become a fond memory. This recent kerfuffle over the CFPB sets a new and dangerous precedent, and it should not be ignored.
The CFPB was set up by the Dodd-Frank Act, which passed with majorities in both chambers of Congress and was signed by President Obama in 2010. It is law. The Republicans are trying to undo this law by using the confirmation process to circumvent the authority of the previous Congress. They don’t like Dodd-Frank or the CFPB, but because they do not have a majority they can’t repeal the bill so they’ve found the next best thing: they are preventing its provisions from being effective.
They are using their duty to confirm nominees as a political tool of retribution, to get back at Democrats for passing a bill they don’t like. They have publicly vowed that they will not allow a vote on any CFPB nominee until certain changes to the Bureau are made. That is not how lawmaking is supposed to work.
By subverting the confirmation process in this way, the Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent, and I fear where this may lead us. As the Tea Party becomes more and more attached to the idea of eliminating the Department of Education and the EPA, what is to stop them from using this same legislative tool to stop future presidents from filling posts in those departments? They have clearly shown that their central goal is a systematic dismantling of government, but if they can’t get that, will they settle for slowly ripping it apart from the inside?