November 29, 2018 / 7:38 PM / 15 days ago

Senate votes to advance consumer watchdog nominee

FILE PHOTO: Kathleen Laura Kraninger testifies before a Senate Banking Committee hearing on her nomination to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2018. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. senators voted 50 to 49 on Thursday to advance the nomination of President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. consumer financial watchdog, despite opposition from Democrats and consumers who say she is not qualified for the role.

Kathy Kraninger is now poised to be approved as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after a procedural vote limiting debate on her nomination. She is expected to be formally confirmed for the job next week.

Kraninger, a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), faced criticism during her nomination hearing in July about the role she played in the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that separated more than 2,000 children from their parents.

Kraninger has denied having a role in setting or developing the immigration policy but said that she attended meetings relating to its implementation.

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown have written numerous letters demanding more information on Kraninger’s position on a range of consumer finance issues. They, along with other critics, have argued she lacks the necessary experience for the role, having served across several government agencies but never specializing in consumer finance issues.

The CFPB was formed in 2011 under former Democratic President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 financial crisis to look out for the interests of ordinary borrowers.

Democrats have insisted the agency is a critical safeguard for consumers in the financial marketplace, but Republicans have consistently criticized it as heavy-handed and overreaching.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief budget officer, has led the CFPB in an acting role for one year, and has moved to aggressively curtail its activities in writing rules and policing lenders. Once confirmed, Kraninger can serve in the role for a five-year term.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson and Pete Schroeder; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown

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