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Trump picks a nominee for CFPB chief — which really lets Mick Mulvaney stay in charge longer

Trump picks a nominee for CFPB chief — which really lets Mick Mulvaney stay in charge longer
Kathy Kraninger, left, is President Trump's nominee to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She's shown here at a 2008 event when serving as deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

President Trump intends to nominate little-known White House aide Kathy Kraninger to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a move that allows Mick Mulvaney to remain as the bureau’s acting chief for months.

Kraninger, associate director of the Office of Management and Budget, “will bring a fresh perspective and much-needed management experience to the BCFP, which has been plagued by excessive spending, dysfunctional operations and politicized agendas,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said Saturday, using Mulvaney’s preferred acronym for the agency.

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Kraninger has no apparent financial regulation or consumer protection background.

But by sending a nomination — any nomination — to the Senate for the bureau’s director, the White House ensures that Mulvaney can continue serving as the bureau’s acting director.

Under a time limit in the law by which he was appointed in November, Mulvaney would have been required to leave the consumer bureau job on June 22 if the White House hadn’t nominated someone to be the permanent director.

Kraninger’s nomination triggers a provision in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act that allows Mulvaney to serve until the Senate confirms or rejects the pick. That process could take months.

Consumer advocates have feared that Trump would select a straw-man nominee simply to extend Mulvaney’s time as the acting director.

In her current role, Kraninger works for Mulvaney, who in addition to being CFPB acting director also is the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“As a staunch supporter of free enterprise, [Kraninger] will continue the reforms of the bureau initiated by acting director Mick Mulvaney, and ensure that consumers and markets are not harmed by fraudulent actors,” Walters said. “The White House hopes that she will be promptly confirmed by the Senate.”

Kraninger probably will have difficulty getting confirmed by the narrowly divided Senate given her lack of experience and her ties to Mulvaney, which will draw strong opposition from Democrats and consumer advocates.

“This is nothing more than a desperate attempt by Mick Mulvaney to maintain his grip on the CFPB, so he can continue undermining its important consumer protection mission on behalf of the powerful Wall Street special interests and predatory lenders that have bankrolled his career,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a consumer watchdog group.

Trump administration officials “know waiting for the last possible moment to announce a nominee, and then selecting someone whose resume of relevant experience is basically nonexistent, buys them more time with Mulvaney at the helm,” Frisch said.

Mulvaney has dramatically changed the mission of the bureau, which was created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to write and enforce consumer protection regulations.

Mulvaney called the agency a “joke ... in a sad, sick kind of way” when he was a Republican House member from South Carolina.

Since taking over in a controversial appointment — which is still being challenged in court — Mulvaney has altered the bureau's mission statement to make the top priority “identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations” and has publicly declared the agency no longer would “aggressively push the envelope” to protect consumers.

Until April, when the CFPB joined with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to fine Wells Fargo & Co. $1 billion for multiple consumer abuses in a case that preceded Mulvaney, the agency had not taken a single enforcement action since he became acting director.

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Kraninger’s background has been largely in homeland security. At the Office of Management and Budget, she oversees the budget for five agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. She previously worked as the clerk for the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security and before that served as deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

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