Democrats were for a CFPB commission…before they were against it
Posted by on May 11, 2011

WASHINGTON – Attacks from Democrats claiming a bipartisan commission to oversee the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is somehow “anti-consumer” ring hollow in light of the record. 

Until recently, many of these same Democrats supported, proposed and voted for exactly such a commission. 

Below is a timeline showing the evolution of Democratic support for a commission to lead the CFPB.  This timeline shows that even Ranking Member Barney Frank introduced legislation less than two years ago to put the CFPB under the direction of a five-member commission.  This is perhaps the greatest political flip-flop since another famous Massachusetts Democrat claimed to be for something, before he was against it.

Evolution of Democratic Support for a Commission Structure at the CFPB

Summer 2007 – Elizabeth Warren publishes an article in issue #5 of Democracy entitled, “Unsafe at Any Rate:  If it’s good enough for microwaves, it’s good enough for mortgages. Why we need a Financial Product Safety Commission.”  In the article, she calls for the creation of the Financial Product Safety Commission (FPSC), modeled on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  While she does not lay out why she prefers a commission structure for the FPSC, she repeatedly correlates the FPSC to the CPSC and refers to the authority the commission would have.

05/2008 – Elizabeth Warren republishes her previous article in the May-June 2008 edition of the Harvard Magazine.  The article is entitled, “Making Credit Safer:  The Case for Regulation.”  This indicates that Ms. Warren has not yet reversed her support for a commission structure at the CPFB.

12/2008 – Elizabeth Warren announces that Consumer Federation of America will lead the charge in Congress for a Financial Product Safety Commission.

03/10/2009 – Senator Dick Durbin and 6 cosponsors introduce S. 566, the Financial Product Safety Commission Act of 2009.  Cosponsors include:

Sen Franken, Al [D-MN] - 8/4/2009
Sen Kennedy, Edward M. [D-MA] - 3/10/2009 
Sen Merkley, Jeff [D-OR] - 5/20/2009
Sen Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] - 5/4/2009
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [D-NY] - 3/10/2009 
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI] - 5/13/2009

03/25/2009 – Rep. Bill Delahunt and 21 cosponsors introduce H.R. 1705, the Financial Product Safety Commission Act of 2009.  The list of co-sponsors is below, and those who are current members of FSC are highlighted and starred:

Rep Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR-3] - 4/21/2009
Rep Brady, Robert A. [D-PA-1] - 5/4/2009
Rep Capuano, Michael E. [D-MA-8] - 5/14/2009
Rep Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9] - 6/26/2009
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [D-MI-14] - 4/21/2009
Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [D-OR-4] - 6/24/2009
Rep Ellison, Keith [D-MN-5] - 3/31/2009
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [D-IL-4] - 6/3/2009
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [D-NY-22] - 6/18/2009
Rep Honda, Michael M. [D-CA-15] - 6/23/2009
Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [D-MA-9] - 6/17/2009
Rep Miller, Brad [D-NC-13] - 3/25/2009
Rep Miller, George [D-CA-7] - 3/31/2009
Rep Pastor, Ed [D-AZ-4] - 6/17/2009
Rep Peters, Gary C. [D-MI-9] - 6/17/2009
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9] - 3/31/2009
Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [D-NY-28] - 6/3/2009
Rep Speier, Jackie [D-CA-12] - 4/21/2009
Rep Tierney, John F. [D-MA-6] - 3/31/2009
Rep Welch, Peter [D-VT] - 3/31/2009
Rep Wu, David [D-OR-1] - 5/4/2009

06/17/2009 – The Obama Administration releases a proposal to reform the financial regulatory system, which includes a version of Ms. Warren’s FPSC, which is now referred to as the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).  According to the Administration, “The CFPA will have a Director and a Board. The Board should represent a diverse set of viewpoints and experiences. At least one seat on the Board should be reserved for the head of a prudential regulator.”

07/08/2009Barney Frank introduces HR 3126, which provides for the CFPB to be run by a five-member board.  Under the bill, four of the five board members would be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  The fifth member would be the head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).  That bill requires that the President select a director to head the board from among the appointed board members.  The members would serve five year terms, which would initially be staggered.

10/29/2009 – House Energy & Commerce Committee marks up HR 3126 and votes 33 – 19 to approve the legislation with several amendments.   A bipartisan manager’s amendment adopted by the Committee would, among other things, require the CFPA to be managed by a five-member commission, rather than by a single executive.  No more than three commissioners could come from the same political party.  According to the House Energy & Commerce summary of the markup, “Structuring the agency as a bipartisan commission would help insulate it from the effects of shifting political powers and instill a higher level of regulatory consistency in CFPA policy.”

11/10/2009 – Under the direction of Senator Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee releases a discussion draft of financial regulatory reform legislation.  Sen. Dodd’s version includes a five-member Board of Directors for the CFPA.  Four members are to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and the fifth person would be the Director of the proposed Financial Institutions Regulatory Administration (FIRA), a new agency created by the bill that would consolidate prudential banking supervision under one roof.   The President would select one of those five individuals to serve as the Director.  The board members would serve five year terms that would initially be staggered.

12/11/2009 - The U.S. House of Representatives passes, by a vote of 223 – 202, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173). The final version of the bill reinstates the five-member commission, which would come into existence after the completion of an interim Director’s 30 month term.


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