They pulled off the kid gloves and the boxing gloves at theHouse Financial Services Committee, going full-on bare-knuckle and then even brass knuckles on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its director, who was there to give his semi-annual report to Congress.
Any pretense from previous hearings seemed to have been cast aside as Republicans and Democrats fired direct broadsides – Republicans targeting the CFPB, and the Democrats targeting Republicans.
The hearing was more of a grilling than CFPB director Richard Cordray got last week before the Senate Banking Committee, which was uncharacteristically heated.
Majority Republican members accused the agency of the worst kinds of operational and financial mismanagement, collecting private personal data on U.S. citizens, for being on non-transparent and for a culture of discrimination at the CFPB. Also in the mix was the now $185 million renovation the CFPB is undertaking on an office building it does not own, a renovation that costs more than the actual building itself.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, launched the opening salvo.
“Properly designed, the CFPB is capable of great good on behalf of consumers. It is also capable of great harm,” Hensarling said. “In just three years, the CFPB has grown into an unaccountable federal leviathan of nearly 1,400 employees with over a half billion dollar budget and the unrestrained power to dictate which Americans can receive credit and which Americas cannot. Knowledgeable Americas are rightfully alarmed as the threat and the harm begins to mount.”
Hensarling said the CFPB as constituted hobbles businesses at a time when the economic is stalling out.
“Since Director Cordray last appeared before our committee in January, we have learned much. First, we have learned in the first quarter of this year we actually had negative economic growth of one percent,” Hensarling said. “And when you speak to practically any small businessperson, any community banker they will tell you the sheer weight, volume, complexity of the regulatory red tape burden is one of the primary reasons that they cannot expand and hire more people.”