GOP blocks Obama nominee to head financial agency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The battle over the future of a new financial watchdog office escalated Thursday with Senate Republicans blocking confirmation of the man President Barack Obama named to head the office and Obama countering by holding out the possibility of appointing the nominee when Congress is on recess.

Senate Republicans were near unanimous in voting to stop a former Ohio attorney general, Richard Cordray, from becoming director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency they said had too much power and too little accountability.

The vote had immediate consequences. Without a director, the agency designed to shield consumers from the excesses behind the 2008 financial crisis is unable to operate at full strength.

Republicans said until the Obama administration agrees to changes at the agency, they will keep blocking the president’s pick from taking charge.

Obama said immediately after the vote that there was no reason to deny Cordray the top spot. He did not rule out a recess appointment, whereby a president makes a temporary appointment to a government post when Congress is not in session. Under such a move, an appointee can serve until the close of the next session of Congress, which would be the end of 2012.

Republicans this year have been successful in stopping the White House from making such appointments.

Obama said his message to the Senate was: “We are not giving up on this. We’re going to keep on going at it. We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way” of American consumers being protected from unscrupulous financial operators.

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