SIGNALING AN EPIC fight over control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency on Friday named Leandra English as Deputy Director. English had been serving as Richard Cordray’s chief of staff.
Hours later, Cordray officially resigned. Under the statutory line of succession spelled out in the law that created the agency, the deputy director automatically replaces him, with full powers of the office, until the Senate formally confirms a new director selected by the president.
President Trump had planned to name Mick Mulvaney, current director of the Office of Management and Budget, as interim director, wresting immediate control of CFPB without having to go through Congress. The administration would have relied on the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allows the president to make appointments to federal agencies in certain cases. But as The Intercept reported earlier this week, there was a hitch in that plan: The temporary pick is not legally Trump’s to make. (See the update below: Trump made the pick regardless late on Friday evening.)
The appointment of English, just moments before Cordray’s departure, suggests that CFPB will make the case that Trump can’t appoint anyoneon an interim basis, and that only the deputy director can replace an absent or unavailable director. The FVRA says specifically that it doesn’t apply to agencies where “a statutory provision … designates an officer or employee to perform the functions and duties of a specified office temporarily in an acting capacity.”
If Trump decides to appoint Mulvaney or another interim director anyway, it could set up a titanic battle, with effectively two different people claiming leadership of the agency — one who expressly opposes its mission, and one who supports it. The courts would have to sort out the aftermath, determining whether Trump’s appointee or Deputy Director English hold actual control.