Renewing a 3-year-old fight over bank oversight, Senate Republicans say they will oppose President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless the office created after the 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown is significantly changed.
Obama has renominated bureau director Richard Cordray, who had been named in a recess appointment last year.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and 42 other GOP senators sent a letter Friday to Obama saying the consumer office has little accountability to Congress and wields too much regulatory authority. They said they will oppose any nominee, no matter his or her party affiliation.
"Far too much power is vested in the sole CFPB director without any meaningful checks and balances," the letter said.
The letter represents the most direct threat to an Obama nomination this year. With unified Republican opposition, Democrats would be unable to get the necessary 60 votes to overcome procedural obstacles to confirm a nominee. Two Republicans, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Bob Corker of Tennessee, did not sign the letter.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said: "It is most unfortunate that a minority of the U.S. Senate continues to oppose implementation of Wall Street reform that was designed entirely to protect the American taxpayer from the kind of crisis that we saw engendered by the class of our financial sector in 2007 and 2008."
Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, faced the same opposition when Obama nominated him for the job in 2011. His Jan. 4, 2012, recess appointment is now under court challenge. Obama appointed Cordray on the same day he placed three members on the National Labor Relations Board whose appointments were ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court last month. A ruling on Cordray's recess appointment is pending.
The Consumer Financial Protection Board was a key feature of the overhaul of financial regulations that Congress approved and Obama signed in 2010. Republicans, however, objected to the law in general and to the consumer office in particular.
They have demanded that a bipartisan board of directors oversee the office and that it be subject to annual congressional appropriations instead of direct funding from the Federal Reserve.
Corker spokeswoman Laura Herzog said Corker chose not to sign the GOP letter because he is "looking at legislative options to achieve the same objective: accountability at the CFPB."
Portman on Friday sent Cordray a letter urging him to support the changes Republicans seek "so that the Senate can find a path forward on your nomination."
"You have an opportunity to stake out a reasonable position on these proposals independent of the White House," Portman wrote.