House Republican: President Trump, fire CFPB Director Richard Cordray

What is the CFPB?
What is the CFPB?

A top House Republican beseeched President Trump to fire Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, pronto.

Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, called on the president to dismiss Cordray "immediately."

"I believe the president is clearly justified in dismissing you and I call upon the president -- yet again - to do just that, and to do it immediately," said Hensarling during a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Republicans want the former Ohio attorney general to be ousted and replaced with someone who holds their own views. GOP lawmakers have a long list of steps to overhaul the agency, including turning the agency into a commission run by several people rather than one and handing over control of its budget to Congress.

But the 2010 Dodd-Frank reform law that created the independent agency states the president can't fire the director without cause.

Related: Barney Frank defends consumer agency from 'conservative assault'

"Republicans have been clamoring to weaken, impede, and ultimately destroy the Consumer Bureau since its creation," said Maxine Waters, a top Democrat on the panel. She told Cordray she hopes the president "would have the wisdom to ask you to stay on" until his term expires in July 2018.

Critics of the agency, which is in charge of protecting consumers from unfair, deceptive or abusive practices, point to a court case that questions the constitutionality of the bureau having a single director.

The CFPB challenged the October ruling, which gives the president the authority to fire the director. The agency has been granted a rehearing in May.

Related: Justice Department says Trump has power to fire bank regulator

The Justice Department has also stepped in to back that decision. In March, the department filed a legal brief arguing that the Constitution grants the president "the authority to remove executive branch agency heads at will," unless the agency is headed by a commission.

"There is a greater risk that an 'independent' agency headed by a single person will engage in extreme departures from the President's executive policy," the DOJ wrote.

Throughout Wednesday's contentious hearing, GOP lawmakers repeatedly took the opportunity to disparage Cordray and the agency's work since its inception.

Ann Wagner, head of the panel's oversight subcommittee, painted the CFPB as a latecomer in uncovering Wells Fargo's fraudulent sales practices. She repeatedly pressed Cordray to specify about when he prompted the agency's staff to begin its investigation of the San Francisco-based bank, suggesting the agency was "asleep at the wheel" until press reports emerged.

Wells Fargo (WFC) employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses. Employees went so far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services. The bank fired 5,300 employees over the last few years related to the shady behavior.

Other GOP lawmakers, including Sean Duffy and Hensarling, also chastised Cordray for failing to reply to dozens of subpoena requests, including one tied to Ally Financial (ALLY) for discriminatory pricing in the lender's auto loans, and for not certifying compliance with lawmakers' requests.

Related: Top Fed official likens Wells Fargo fraud to mortgage crisis

"I believe we have complied with all your subpoena requests," Cordray told Duffy.

Separately, Hensarling pressed Cordray on whether he was aware of the Federal Reserve's Inspector General review of the agency's handling of congressional inquiries.

"I don't always know the inquiries that the IG is conducting," said Cordray. "I'm not supposed to know all the inquiries that IG is conducting."

Democrats were quick to acknowledge the hostility from their colleagues from across the aisle.

"Mr. Cordray, boy they really hate you, don't they?" said Michael Capuano, a Democratic lawmaker. He was joined by a chorus of other Democrats, who hailed Cordray's work as critical to protecting American consumers.

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