Every time power shifts at the top of the political pyramid, there is a house-cleaning below. Some agencies see massive turnover. Others have their budgets slashed. In the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), there has been both–but it is the agency itself that is cutting its budget. The new director has asked for $0 for his agency.
The CFPB’s chief role is to protect American consumers from predatory lenders and debt collectors. The agency requires federal funding to perform its duties, and makes budget requests quarterly.
“Former director Richard Cordray,” CNN notes, “an Obama appointee, requested $217.1 million last year. He also asked for $86.6 million for the prior quarter.”
Interim Director Mick Mulvaney has reduced that number to $0.
“In a letter to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Thursday,” CNN adds, “interim Director Mick Mulvaney said the bureau already has $177.1 million in its coffers — more than enough funds to cover the $145 million the CFPB’s expenses for the second fiscal quarter.”
“Simply put,” Mulvaney wrote, “I have been assured that the funds currently in the bureau fund are sufficient for the bureau to carry out its statutory mandates for the next fiscal quarter while striving to be efficient, effective and accountable.”
What should the government do with the extra money? “While this approximately $145 million may not make much of a dent in the deficit, the men and women at the bureau are proud to do their part to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Mulvaney wrote.
Mulvaney doesn’t need more money becasue the agency has a surplus, but critics argue that the surplus is needed in case of an emergency and that this is a symbolic move meant to undermine the role of the CFPB.
Karl Frisch, executive director of consumer watchdog organization Allied Progress, spoke with CNN. He said there “can be no clearer signal” of Trump’s intent to “defang and dismantle” the CFPB.
The move hasn’t sat well with Democratic lawmakers. Forty Democrats have allied and are calling on all senators to reject any government funding deals that jeopardize the funding of the CFPB.
They sent a letter Wednesday to Senate majority leaders. “Altering the funding stream of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would further jeopardize the agency and its ability to conduct independent investigations into financial wrongdoing,” they wrote.
The White House, meanwhile, is supporting the new agenda. “You will see a CFPB that issues rules, takes comments [and] reads the Administrative Procedure Act,” Mark Calabria, chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence said. “More consumer protection, less social engineering and staying consistent with what the statute actually says.”