Thursday’s Senate confirmation hearing for Kathy Kraninger, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), produced a number of testy exchanges with Democrats but no obvious obstacles to the Senate confirming her ultimately. Kraninger, now an Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), would if confirmed replace the Bureau’s Acting Director, Mick Mulvaney. In addition, as the law now stands, Kraninger would then be removable only “for cause” during a term for as long as five years, which would extend well into the next Presidential administration.
In her brief opening statement and throughout her testimony, Kraninger indicated that she would continue the pro-business shift at the agency started by Mulvaney more than six months ago. She shared no views about specific policy issues facing the Bureau, such as whether the CFPB should repeal its final but not-yet-effective payday lending regulations. She did in more vague terms, however, indicate that she would make data privacy a high priority, and that she approved of Mulvaney’s actions as director.
Senator Mike Crapo (R-Id.), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee that held Thursday’s hearing, stated that Kraninger would have to respond to any follow-up written questions from Senators by July 31, 2018, and that a Committee vote would follow by the end of that week, August 3.
As has been widely reported, Kraninger would bring relatively little consumer financial experience to the Director position. Democratic Senators seized on that point and repeatedly charged that she was unqualified to lead the agency. Indeed, no Democrats voiced support for Kraninger, with even some from “Red” states indicating they had concerns. Other Democratic Senators posed questions about Kraninger’s role at OMB overseeing the agencies responsible for the controversial “zero-tolerance” border policy and disaster recovery in Puerto Rico, but Kraninger’s responses offered very little in terms of specifics, leaving exasperated some of the questioners, especially Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MS).
In line with expectations, the panel’s Republicans generally described the CFPB as an unaccountable agency that Kraninger has the management expertise to lead. Because Republicans maintain a narrow Senate majority and showed no obvious indication of concern, it would appear at the moment that they could push a confirmation through if determined to do so.
Importantly, even if Democrats are able to delay Kraninger’s confirmation, the delay would leave Acting Director Mulvaney in charge during the pendency of the nomination.