WASHINGTON — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers Wednesday that the agency’s new priority is “to recognize free markets and consumer choice” and take “a humble approach to enforcing the law,” according to prepared remarks released in advance.
In his first testimony to Congress since his appointment as the bureau’s acting director, Mulvaney acknowledged that many lawmakers have disagreed with his actions in the job, “just as many members disagreed with the actions of my predecessor.”
Mulvaney blamed lawmakers’ frustrations on the structure of the bureau, an independent watchdog created in the wake of the financial crisis. He was an outspoken critic of the bureau as a Republican member of Congress, and last week he formally asked Congress to reduce the bureau’s authority.
Mulvaney and other Republicans have said the bureau is unaccountable because its funding, as with that of other financial regulators, is outside the appropriations process, and the president can fire the bureau’s director only for cause, rather than at will.
Mulvaney has proposed changing those provisions, which he said Wednesday would resolve congressional frustration.
“Such continued frustration with the bureau’s lack of accountability to any representative branch of government should be a warning sign that a lapse in democratic structure and republican principles has occurred,” Mulvaney said in remarks he planned to give to the House Financial Services Committee.
“This cycle will continue ad infinitum unless Congress acts to make the bureau accountable to the American people,” he said.
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Democrats and consumer advocates said the bureau’s structure was designed to keep it free of political influence so consumer protection efforts wouldn’t be weakened by financial industry lobbying or starved of funding by congressional opponents.
In November, President Donald Trump appointed Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, to also serve as the bureau’s acting director.
Since then, Mulvaney has scaled back the bureau’s enforcement activities and changed its mission statement to make the top priority “identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations.”