Leadership at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is likely to become a hot political topic again. Mick Mulvaney was appointed to lead the CFPB as by President Donald Trump last November after the previous leader, Richard Cordray, resigned to run for Governor of Ohio. Cordray resigned before the end of his statutory term, however, and President Trump appointed Mulvaney as “acting director” until a permanent director could be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. That temporary appointment ends June 22.
Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, the acting director of an executive office can only serve for a maximum of 210 days without Senate confirmation. As soon as President Trump formally appoints someone to be director of the CFPB, the Senate will have to confirm or reject that individual. If that happens before June 22, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act would allow Mulvaney to remain until a successor is confirmed. If the appointee is rejected by the Senate, the Act would allow Mulvaney to remain an additional 210 days.
Mulvaney, who also heads up the Office of Management and Budget, has stated that he has “no idea” how long he will remain in the position or if he himself will be nominated. Reports last week indicated that President Trump was meeting with industry leaders to look for possible appointees. However, President Trump and other Republicans have also spoken of shutting the agency down completely.
President Trump may not be in a hurry to make a decision. If he appoints someone who Senate Democrats are likely to reject, Mulvaney is guaranteed to remain in place until almost 2019. A confirmation fight in the Senate ahead of the mid-term elections this November may be dicey for Democrats who are hoping to hold onto seats in that chamber. Also, rejecting any nominee would simply result in 210 more days of Mulvaney, who has been the target of sharp criticism from Democrats. Yet that might be preferable to confirming an even more objectionable candidate for the job, or to losing seats in November that would make blocking an objectionable nominee more difficult.
Senate confirmation a Director of the CFPB in late 2018 would mean that new head’s five-year term would not begin until early 2019. Even if President Trump served a single term in office, he could effectively saddle his replacement with a Republican CFPB Director for many years.