CFPB chief argues against self-interest

Kathy Kraninger

Kathleen Kraninger, the Trump-selected director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is emerging as a very intriguing public official. Criticized early on as inexperienced, Kraninger has turned out to be refreshingly selfless. Confirmed by the Senate last December on a straight-line party vote, Kraninger is attempting to take partisan politics out of the CFPB leadership job.

Rules that restrict a president from removing the CFPB Director are unconstitutional, she says in letters she wrote two months ago to Congressional leaders. Siding with the U.S. Justice Department, Kraninger is urging the Supreme Court to review a case challenging a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that says the CFPB director can only be removed “for cause.” Although there are exceptions, typically such a position is subject to the President’s unfettered discretion. Kraninger believes the law infringes upon the power of the presidency. 

Kraninger’s move is gutsy because should the Supreme Court rule the law is unconstitutional, Kraninger would be susceptible to replacement if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020. Kraninger has not even completed the first year of her five-year term. It would be a lot easier for her to keep quiet. Her advocacy increases the likelihood the highest court in the land will consider the dispute.

But what we know about Kraninger — a 44-year-old attorney — reveals nothing but a dedicated public servant. The Ohio native graduated from Marquette University, volunteered as a teacher in the Ukraine through the Peace Corps., got a law degree from Georgetown, and then served in several government agencies including the Department of Transportation, Office of Homeland Security, the U.S. Senate and the Office of Management and Budget. That’s where she worked for Mick Mulvaney who suggested her for the CFPB Directorship. 

Critics say Kraninger is a Mulvaney protégé, but one could say the same about Leandra English, another government agency staffer formerly appointed to run the CFPB by Richard Cordray upon his exodus from the bureau. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who advocated for the creation of the CFPB, is no fan of Kraninger, but unlike Kraninger, Warren is seeking higher public office.

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court decides regarding the CFPB. The latest twist suggests all of the bureau’s enforcement actions would have to be reversed if the court rules the CFPB Directorship unconstitutional. Regardless of how SCOTUS eventually rules on this, I applaud Kraninger now for putting the job ahead of her career.