Ahmed Elbatrawy

No hot tempers at consumer chief’s House hearing

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — No raised voices. No accusations of evading questions. No accusations of lying.

Anyone expecting fireworks from Richard Cordray’s first hearing on Capitol Hill as chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was disappointed. Tuesday’s session before a House Oversight subcommittee lacked the tense undertones and pointed questions that have marked previous hearings on the bureau.

Cordray’s recess appointment earlier this month caused Republicans, especially those in the House, to denounce the president’s move and question the legitimacy of the bureau’s work.

While subcommittee chairman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina explained that he called the hearing to highlight the “unprecedented and legal consequences and uncertainty that this appointment would create,” few lawmakers posed such questions to Cordray in person.

The Republican who came closest was California Rep. Darrell Issa. Issa, the chairman of the full Oversight Committee, asked Cordray if he had a back-up plan in case a court rules that the bureau’s work is illegitimate under his tenure.

Cordray said he was open to suggestions, but added the bureau intends to move forward with its full powers.

Political veterans have predicted a bumpy road for the bureau after the president’s recess appointment of Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, as the bureau’s first official director.

Republicans in Congress tried for months to prevent the president from making exactly the appointment unless he agreed to structural changes in the consumer bureau. They say the House and Senate were not in recess when Obama made the appointment.

But lawmakers in the House hearing kept a civil tone, especially compared to past hearings with Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard University law professor who helped set up the bureau.

McHenry, who came to blows with Warren last year, pushed Cordray to lay out a so-called “regulatory agenda,” forecasting the types of enforcement actions the bureau intends to pursue.

Cordray said he would consider it.

“I think our agenda has been pretty clear to everybody who has interacted with us, from the (U.S.) Chamber (of Commerce) to consumer groups,” Cordray said. “I’m happy to have my staff work with you, and if it’s a best practice, that’s something we could do.” To top of page

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Ahmed Elbatrawy