Issa emerges as new name for CFPB chief

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Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican lawmaker from California, is among the candidates who have been discussed as President Donald Trump gets closer to naming someone to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to people familiar with the matter.

J. Mark McWatters, a credit union regulator and former congressional staffer, is another top candidate, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. The White House will likely make an announcement next week, according to Mick Mulvaney, the agency’s interim leader.

Mulvaney, speaking with reporters Tuesday, said he was recently told by White House Counsel Don McGahn that the Trump administration will adhere to a June 22 deadline for selecting a permanent CFPB director. Trump met with one of the finalists for the job last week, according to Mulvaney, who said he didn’t know who the candidate was.

“I was not involved in the process," Mulvaney said, adding that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and top White House economic advisers Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett have been leading the search. “Once they name a person I look forward to working with him or her to get that person up to speed." Kudlow suffered a heart attack on Monday and is recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, but Mulvaney said that would not affect the timing.

Once the Senate confirms a new director, it will bring an end to an unusual situation in which Mulvaney has served as the White House’s budget director, while simultaneously running a regulatory agency that’s supposed to protect consumers from predatory lending. Mulvaney took over the CFPB last November, and Democrats such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have repeatedly cited his part-time status as evidence of the administration’s hostility to the agency’s mission.

Mulvaney’s Tenure

Still, Mulvaney may not be leaving anytime soon, because it could take the Senate months to confirm a successor. Mulvaney said Tuesday that he expects to remain at the agency until late this year.

McWatters is the chairman of the National Credit Union Administration and a former adviser to Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. McWatters is considered to be a more moderate choice than others who have been under consideration, such as Todd Zywicki, a George Mason University law professor and a scholar at the conservative Mercatus Center.

Issa isn’t running for re-election.

Whoever gets the job would inherit an agency that has worn a bull's-eye since Trump’s election. Mulvaney, a former congressman who frequently blasted the agency when he was in Congress, has cut spending, closed investigations into companies and reorganized staff. The changes have roiled a watchdog that had been a scourge of the financial industry under former President Barack Obama.

Mulvaney said he will ask the Federal Reserve for $65.7 million to cover the CFPB’s operating costs for the fourth quarter, bringing his total budget requests for this year to $381 million. The total is $200 million less than what the agency received from the Fed in 2017.

For next year, Mulvaney said he has directed the staff to propose cuts that would reduce the agency’s budget by 20%. While Mulvaney said he doesn’t plan to eliminate jobs, travel is one area where he expects to lower costs by tens of millions of dollars.

Bloomberg News
Mick Mulvaney CFPB