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Former Ohio Attorney General Tapped to Run Consumer Agency

Updated: 8:04 p.m.

President Barack Obama will nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the White House said in a statement Sunday.

Cordray is currently the chief of enforcement for the CFPB, which was created under last year’s financial regulatory reform law to serve as a watchdog for consumers of financial products. He was chosen over Treasury adviser Elizabeth Warren, who helped conceive the CFPB and has been setting it up. Senate Republicans opposed naming her its director.

“Richard Cordray has spent his career advocating for middle class families, from his tenure as Ohio’s Attorney General, to his most recent role as heading up the enforcement division at the CFPB and looking out for ordinary people in our financial system,” Obama said in the statement.

Senate Republicans pledged in May to filibuster anyone nominated to lead the CFPB unless it is overhauled.

The 44 Senators wrote that the CFPB director has “unprecedented authority over financial institutions” under current law and could threaten to “affect every American household by limiting their choices when purchasing financial products.”

Senate Banking ranking member Richard Shelby, who released the letter in May, showed no willingness to budge from the GOP position Sunday.

“Although this deadline has been known for nearly one year, President Obama waited until the last possible moment to act,” the Alabama Republican said in a statement. “For months he has ignored Republican concerns about the lack of accountability at the [bureau] and its potential adverse effect on the economy. Until President Obama addresses our concerns by supporting a few reasonable structural changes, we will not confirm anyone to lead it. No accountability, no confirmation.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told the Columbus Dispatch that Cordray’s selection was a “great move. There’s no question of Rich’s qualifications.”

The Ohio Democrat predicted Cordray would be confirmed unless Senators “get to be hyper-partisan. My only fear is Republicans don’t think we should have consumer protection rules.”

Brown’s home state colleague, Republican Sen. Rob Portman, expressed reservations about the CFPB’s structure, saying he believes it “needs reasonable checks to ensure it does not lead to job loss and harm to the consumers it was created to protect.”

“Rich Cordray is a dedicated public servant and I will look forward to hearing his views, including on how the CFPB can be made more accountable,” Portman said in a statement Sunday.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee accused Warren during a hearing last week of hiding information. They argued that the CFPB lacks oversight because it is not subject to the Congressional appropriations process, while panel Democrats accused the Republicans of protecting Wall Street.

Obama thanked Warren on Sunday for her efforts to make the agency a reality.

“I also want to thank Elizabeth Warren not only for her extraordinary work standing up the new agency over the past year, but also for her many years of impassioned leadership, and her fierce defense of a simple idea: ordinary people deserve to be treated fairly and honestly in their financial dealings,” he said in the statement. “This agency was Elizabeth’s idea, and through sheer force of will, intelligence, and a bottomless well of energy, she has made, and will continue to make, a profound and positive difference for our country.”

Warren’s schedule, which is available to the public, has provided hints that she may be considering running against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in 2012. She has recently met in person or spoken on the phone with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.), Obama adviser David Axelrod, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Barney Frank, Stephen Lynch and John Tierney.

Cordray was named CFPB enforcement director after he lost his re-election bid in November. Obama will officially announce Cordray’s nomination to the director’s post Monday, and the bureau officially launches Thursday.

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