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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch vowed in 2011 to stand in the way of anyone nominated to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless the president agreed to change the way it was funded and overseen.
Utah's senior Republican relented Tuesday as part of a deal meant to save the minority party's power to delay action on future nominations.
As a result, Richard Cordray received Senate approval after a year and a half wait, and the debate over the "nuclear option" on changing Senate rules was defused once again.
Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have threatened to drop the threshold to change Senate rules from 67 votes to a mere 51 votes, and then use that power to stop Republicans from using filibusters to block President Barack Obama's appointees.
Hatch, the longest-serving Republican, said doing so would not only diminish the power of the minority party but also destroy what makes the Senate unique.
The parties agreed to a compromise forged by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Tuesday, where Republicans would allow a series of appointments, including Cordray's to go forward, and the White House agreed to nominate two new people to the National Labor Review Board, replacing nominees Republicans objected to.
"This was a made-up crisis from the start," said Hatch, noting that Republicans have only voted down four nominees. "But I'm glad cooler heads prevailed and there is a path forward to prevent using the nuclear option at least for the time being and preserve the checks and balances our country was founded on and preserve the integrity of the Senate."
Hatch not only voted to end the debate over Cordray's nomination but he supported his confirmation as well. He was one of 66 senators to do so, while Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was one of 34 who voted no. Cordray has been serving as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's director through the president's recess appointment power since January 2012, an appointment that Republicans are challenging in the courts.
Republicans oppose the bureau because they believe it has too much power, allowing it to add unnecessary burdens to financial institutions and too little oversight, since its money comes from the Federal Reserve, which Congress doesn't control.
Democrats argue that the bureau is a necessary safeguard against financial abuses by credit card, home loan and check cashing companies.