Senate Republicans are on the brink of launching a filibuster against the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the new consumer agency that will rouse the progressive base of America, inspire a chorus of demands to reform Senate filibuster rules and propel Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to a national stature from the Senate reminiscent of Robert F. Kennedy.
Since his recess appointment to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it is universally agreed that Cordray has served beyond the call of duty by acting fairly, thoughtfully and honorably to protect consumers in ways respectful to business. But that is not enough for Republicans, who are punch-drunk by the power of obstructing presidential nominees to agencies and courts by abusing the rules of the Senate.
The GOP attack against consumer protection that would be embodied by a filibuster against Cordray is one more example of the abuse of democratic values and practices I wrote about in my column last week: “Scalia: Recuse or Resign.”
In the case of Cordray, the consumer agency was created after passing both houses of Congress and being signed by the president and enacted into law in the same manner as the Voting Rights Act and the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law. The Republican agenda in a Cordray filibuster would be to destroy the consumer agency itself and attack the financial well-being of consumers it protects by seeking to blackmail the Senate into rewriting the law by threatening — again — to abuse the filibuster rules.
If Republicans filibuster Cordray, Democratic leaders and/or Senate liberals should call their bluff and bring the nomination to the Senate floor for lengthy debate — or if needed, a talking liberal counter-filibuster in the manner that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took for nearly 13 hours to galvanize the attention of the media and the nation.
Pro-Cordray senators should make lengthy presentations, with each pro-Cordray senator discussing — in detail — why he should be supported by voters victimized by credit card abuse, homeowners cheated by mortgage abuses, military families victimized by financial corruption, active-duty troops abused by payday lenders and all Americans harmed and outraged by the countless abuses, bailouts and inequities of the great financial crises of the Bush years.
Republicans lack the votes in Congress to repeal the agency or amend its rules. They lack the courage to take their case to the country in elections because they do not want to tell workers, women, consumers, veterans, troops, military families, credit card holders, mortgage holders, Hispanics, blacks and other victims of financial abuse that the Republican filibuster is lobbied for by those who abuse consumers and paid for by campaign money given to filibustering Republicans by those whose dirty water they carry.
Republicans would filibuster Cordray to fool the people by cloaking their agenda to destroy consumer protections that benefit all voters. Senate Democrats should respond by giving Republicans the extended debate they say they desire and, accompanied by a presidential address to the nation, inform voters of the threats to their financial lives if Republicans succeed.
When the irresistible force of Republican filibuster against consumer protection meets the immovable object of the senior senator from Massachusetts, who is a great champion of working men and women, the stage will be set for the kind of campaign that Democrats for the House and Senate can champion and win in every region of the nation.
The word on the street is that Warren is writing a book with a working title of Rigged that will probably be released in 2014 as she, and Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton, and President Obama, will be campaigning throughout the nation for a Democratic House and Senate.
Warren, like all Americans, wants a system that is not rigged, a game that is not fixed, a finance that is not crooked, a Senate that is not obstructed and a democracy that is not bought, and so: Let the extended debate begin.