Republicans target consumer bureau

Elizabeth Warren, special advisor on the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), speaks about the CARD Act in Washington.Elizabeth Warren, special advisor on the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), speaks about the CARD Act in Washington. By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- House Republicans calling for smaller government and less spending have a big new target: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The bureau was the most popular part of the Wall Street reforms passed into law last year. But it was also the most politically controversial, barely emerging after more than a year's worth of legislative wrangling.

The bureau is an independent agency, funded by fees that banks pay to the Federal Reserve. Beginning on July 21, it will be charged with regulating credit cards, mortgages and other financial products like payday loans.

But Republican lawmakers, who've already made good on promises to pass bills to roll back health care reform and undo environmental initiatives, want to take a bite out of the consumer bureau and bring it under their control.

So far this month, they've launched several efforts aimed at the agency.

-- In a bill Republicans passed Saturday to fund government through the end of September, lawmakers slashed the bureau's funding by capping the amount of money it can receive from the Federal Reserve to $80 million. The bureau estimates it needs $143 million this year, and current law allows it to draw as much as $500 million when it's up and running.

-- Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican, filed a bill to move the bureau into Treasury, which would give Congress more of a say in how it operates.

-- A House Financial Services subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on March 16 to discuss oversight of the consumer bureau, including concerns that the bureau could stifle the flow of credit, a spokeswoman for that panel said.

"Providing half a billion dollars a year without any congressional oversight to the bureau is, I believe, a very irresponsible abdication of a constitutional check and balance," said Rep. Jo Anne Emerson, R-Missouri during debate on the budget last week.

Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration's point person for setting up the consumer bureau, has defended the office against efforts to "chip away at its independence" both publicly and privately.

"Politicizing the funding of bank supervision would be a dangerous precedent," Warren said in a speech to the Consumer's Union last week. "It would deprive the CFPB of the predictable funding it will need to examine large and powerful banks consistently and to provide a level playing field with their nonbank competitors."

Warren, a consumer advocate and Harvard University professor working as an adviser to both the White House and Treasury, has had more than 50 one-on-one meetings with lawmakers about the consumer bureau.

In January, she also met with several high-ranking Republicans who have been critical of the bureau, including Neugebauer, according to Treasury records. She also met with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who will chair the March hearing examining oversight of the bureau.

With Democrats still in control of the Senate and the presidency, major changes to the bureau are unlikely for now. But consumer advocates say they're still worried about attacks on the bureau.

"The opponents of the [bureau] in the House have one goal, and it's not to cut the bureau's funding, it's to kill it," said Ed Mierzwinski, national consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Groups.

"What's happened better stay in the House, because their goal is to take the cops off the beat, [the cops] whose job it is to prevent another Wall Street crisis." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,049.00 -19.71 -0.12%
Nasdaq 4,591.81 5.28 0.12%
S&P 500 1,997.45 1.76 0.09%
Treasuries 2.53 -0.00 -0.12%
Data as of 3:24am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.57 0.21 1.28%
Apple Inc 101.43 0.43 0.43%
Nabors Industries Lt... 24.85 0.07 0.28%
Facebook Inc 77.92 0.49 0.63%
Microsoft Corp 47.00 0.16 0.34%
Data as of Sep 11

Sections

The public will soon get a broader glimpse at the still-secretive world of government data collection. More

The new law could impact 6.5 million workers, making it the most widespread paid sick day law in the nation. More

John Sims, head of BlackBerry's enterprise division, says the company needs to narrow its focus going forward to business customers. More

These designers are changing the way we dress, accessorize and shop, from custom made-to-fit dresses to smart jewelry that's actually stylish. More

America's workplace got safer last year. But these workers were still at a much higher risk of fatal injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.