| WASHINGTON, March 31
WASHINGTON, March 31 Democrats are trying to
counter Republican President Donald Trump's boldest move yet to
defang the U.S. consumer financial watchdog, with 40 current and
former lawmakers on Friday defending the agency in court.
Two weeks ago the Trump administration took the unusual step
of arguing a federal agency does not hew to the Constitution
when it filed a legal brief opposing the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau's appeal of a ruling that its structure is
The ruling also had said the president should have the power
to fire the agency's head at will. Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank
Wall Street reform law that created the CFPB to protect
individuals against financial fraud, the president can only fire
the director for cause.
On Friday that law's authors, former representative Barney
Frank and former senator Chris Dodd, as well as the most
powerful Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, and the most powerful
one in the House, Nancy Pelosi, shot back.
Congress carefully considered how to establish an agency to
protect Americans' finances after the 2007-09 crisis and
recession, they argued in the brief, which also was signed by
the House Financial Services Committee's top Democrat, Maxine
"Lawmakers determined that it needed two key attributes to
fulfill its mission: independence, and the ability to act
promptly and decisively in response to new threats to
consumers,” they wrote.
The CFPB director is currently Obama appointee Richard
Cordray, hailed by consumer advocates for taking action against
predatory lenders but criticized by Wall Street executives and
Republicans for wielding too much power.
Democratic lawmakers and states' attorneys general
previously asked to represent the CFPB in the appeal, which was
filed while Barack Obama was president, over concerns Trump
would undermine its position but they were rebuffed. The CFPB
can represent itself in legal cases except those before the
Supreme Court, putting Trump in a rare predicament: he cannot
withdraw the appeal.
The flurry of briefs filed by CFPB defenders this week in
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
show civil rights and consumer advocates are gearing up for the
If the court agrees the agency is unconstitutional, Trump is
expected not to take the case to the Supreme Court, fire Cordray
and put a more sympathetic director in. If the court reverses
the ruling, Trump's Justice Department could argue against the
agency at the Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Bill Trott)