The relationship between the House Financial Services Committee and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is about to change.
Yesterday, we got a peek at some of those changes, architected by Maxine Waters, the new chairwoman of the Committee, at an event for the Center for American Progress, the progressive think tank. Her talk to the group hit on a variety of topics, including the government shutdown and its effects on government workers and departments.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were both areas of particular concern for Waters in the face of the shutdown – she noted that the SEC is the “cop on the block” for investors, and that a government that has posted a “closed” sign means it can’t do its work on behalf of investors. As for HUD, Waters noted that 95 percent of its workers are furloughed, putting families who are reliant on HUD funding in danger.
But of central interest for Waters was the CFPB – particularly how it had run while under Interim Director Mick Mulvaney. He served as the head of the federal consumer watchdog for about a year before being replaced by the permanent Executive Director Kathy Kraninger. Waters announced that she has written Mulvaney – who is currently the head of the Office of Management and Budget as well as Donald Trump’s interim chief of staff – that the House Financial Services Committee will be investigating the actions undertaken during his tenure at the top of the CFPB.
“While his time running the Consumer Bureau may be over, the time for accountability for his actions is about to begin,” Waters said, before announcing that she further intends to introduce the Consumers First Act to “undo the damage” of Mulvaney’s acts at CFPB.
But the former head of the CFPB is not the only thing that Waters plans for the Committee to examine more closely during her tenure as chairwoman. She said that she also plans to check in on FinTech firms. The main concern, according to Waters, is to balance the needs to protect investors and consumers, as well as the community banks that she believes are at risk as a result of their entry into the market.
Waters also noted that the Committee will be going after what she referred to as “abusive payday lending” operations – maybe even pushing for credit reporting modernization and perhaps a full overhaul of the system.
When asked, Waters also affirmed her interest in working across party lines, but noted that the decisions will ultimately lie with her as the head of the Committee. Or, as she put it more succinctly, “I have the gavel! The president has the option of vetoing our bills, but we also have the option of overturning the veto.”
That is technically true, but notably Waters would need support from the Senate – which is currently controlled by Republicans.
Apart from oversight and investigation, Waters also plans to push for aggressive reform of housing finance. She is a long-term affordable housing advocate in Congress, and her plan calls for ongoing access to 30-year fixed mortgages, the participation of private capital in the process, access to mortgage lending for qualified borrowers and, finally, ensuring access to affordable rental housing.
Waters has also announced plans to reintroduce the “Restoring Fair Housing Protections Act” to reverse what she claimed are damaging policies administered by HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
Waters concluded her remarks by noting the creation of a new congressional subcommittee – a first-of-its-kind endeavor focused on diversity and inclusion. In that vein, she also called out new members of the Committee, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, both freshmen Democrats.