Sources: Trump Considers Politically Safe Choice to Head Up the CFPB

Donald Trump at Desk
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Mark McWatters is under consideration to be nominated as head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), sources tell Breitbart News. McWatters is a Republican tax lawyer and former Assistant Dean at the Southern Methodist University School of Law.

McWatters was appointed to the Board of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) by President Obama and named Chairman of that agency’s Board in January of this year by President Trump.

The NCUA’s mission is to “Provide, through regulation and supervision, a safe and sound credit union system, which promotes confidence in the national system of cooperative credit.” Its board consists of three members, no more than two of which can be from the same party.

“I have no information that would allow me to comment on this either way,” a spokesperson for the NCUA told Breitbart News when asked if McWatters is under consideration for the top spot at CFPB.

The CFPB, established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, has a much more controversial and high profile mission. Its critics call it an unconstitutional agency with broad powers to regulate the financial industry that is unaccountable to Congress.

A University of Texas Law School classmate of and former aide to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) – the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who has tangled repeatedly with former CFPB director Richard Cordray – McWatters was one of two Republican members of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which Sen. Elizabeth Warren chaired, and was created to “review the current state of financial markets and the regulatory system” arising from the 2008 financial crisis and the distribution of TARP funds.

“The two Republicans currently serving on the oversight panel said in a statement that they’ve liked working with Warren. They found her “quite willing to modify her views if presented with well-reasoned cogent arguments,” wrote J. Mark McWatters, a tax attorney, and Kenneth Troske, a University of Kentucky economics professor,” CNN Money reported in 2010.

McWatters is a new name that had not surfaced in previous reports. His prior cordial working relationship with Senator Warren, however, may be a factor in his potential candidacy. The permanent director nominated to the CFPB by President Trump will require Senate confirmation, and, given the narrowing of the Republican control of that body from 52 – 48 to 51 – 49 with the election of Democrat Doug Jones to the Alabama Senate seat in this month’s special election, a less controversial nominee may have a better chance of confirmation.

“Hot off a legal victory handing him control of the government’s top consumer watchdog, President Donald Trump is moving rapidly to nominate a permanent director to rein in the agency’s reach,” Politico reported at the end of November:

A U.S. District Court judge in Washington on Tuesday said the administration had the right to install White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Judge Timothy Kelly denied a request by CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English, who also claims to hold the top job, to block Mulvaney from taking the post. Her lawyer said the case isn’t over.

For now, the ruling puts a halt to a chaotic series of events set in motion Friday, when former CFPB Director Richard Cordray abruptly resigned. It also moves the White House a step closer to curbing the power of the independent agency, which since its inception has bedeviled banks, credit card issuers, and other financial companies. In the process it has cheered wronged consumers, collecting $12 billion in penalties and recoveries on their behalf.

With the legal skirmish quieted, Trump is close to placing a permanent leader at the agency, a senior administration official told POLITICO. The president’s short list of candidates includes House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki, and former acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika. All are fierce critics of the bureau, which they have accused of overstepping its authority and running roughshod over industry.

One month later, Trump has yet to nominate a permanent director of the controversial agency, though sources tell Breitbart News the statement may be coming in January.

“Of the eight Texas congressmen retiring in 2018, Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling is among the ones going out on top. He that oversees the nation’s banking sector, and has no trouble raising campaign funds. The president eyed him for treasury secretary, and he’s reportedly on a shortlist to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an opportunity to defang an agency he’s spent years trying to kill off,” the Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet decision. But I never intended to do this for the rest of my life,” [Hensarling told the Morning News]. “I’m 60 years old. I probably have time for one more career in my life. … I don’t specifically know what I’m going to do. On the other hand, I have an aspiration that many Americans have: work less hard, make more money, spend more time with my family.”

If that’s really his goal, the CFPB gig is probably not the right move, though he spoke before it came open. And it would provide a shot at accomplishing something that has eluded him as a conservative crusading against big government and exploding deficits.

“That’d be fantastic, if he’d take it. I don’t know if he wants to just go home and get his life back, or if he’d be willing to take that. He’d be eminently qualified,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip.

“Hensarling obviously did a lot to expose problems at the CFPB, and tank Cordray’s original trajectory. So Trump probably feels like he owes him one, plus, I assume Hensarling has clout with Mulvaney and more importantly Pence, and since Trump doesn’t really have a lot of relationships with people in DC to have a sense of who should be appointed for what, it would make sense that Hensarling could drive this train to a good degree,” a source familiar with the operations of the CFPB tells Breitbart News.

“I have no idea where McWatters is on a range of specific matters of concern to the CFPB, if he’s of a mind with Hensarling about the bureau and regulation,” the source adds.

Trump could appoint Hensarling or Zywicki to satisfy Republican critics of the agency, pick a “safe” candidate like McWatters to ensure an easier Senate confirmation, or follow the approach that worked so successfully at the Environmental Protection Agency and pick an aggressive state attorney general committed to implementing his agenda.

Even the Washington Post conceded recently that former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has turned the EPA into one of Trump’s most powerful tools.

Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge – currently the chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association– and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson are Republican state attorneys general President Trump might consider for the top spot at CFPB if he is looking to repeat his success at EPA.

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