Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for CFPB

Source:  WH, 7-17-13

State Dining Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, for decades, the middle class in this country was the engine that powered the economy, and that allowed us to all grow together.  Hard work paid off.  Responsibility was rewarded.  It was that basic bargain that made this country great — that no matter who you are or where you came from, you could make it if you put in enough blood, sweat and tears.

But over time, a winner-take-all philosophy began to take hold and it delivered huge rewards to those at the very top, but left everybody else working harder and harder just to stay afloat.  A lot of families took on more debt just to keep up.  Mortgages were sold that people really didn’t understand and, in some cases, couldn’t afford.  The financial sector was able to make huge bets with other people’s money.  And that strain of irresponsibility eventually came crashing down on all of us.

Now, I ran for President to restore that basic bargain.  I ran because I believed that our economy works best not from the top down, but from the middle out and from the bottom up, where you’ve got a rising, thriving middle class and ladders of opportunity for everybody.

So four years ago, even as we were working on restoring the economy and dealing with the immediate crisis, we also wanted to figure out how do we set new rules for the road to make sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector couldn’t break the law, or cheat consumers, or put the entire economy at risk.

And I was fortunate even when I was running for President to have some friends like Elizabeth Warren, who had already done a lot of academic work on this and had a whole series of ideas about how we might start making sure that consumers were treated better, and as a consequence, take some of the risk out of the system.  And because of those conversations and that work, and because of some terrific efforts by other members in Congress, we were able, for the time in history, to get a consumer watchdog on the job — to look out for the interests of everyday Americans.  And I am very proud to say that last night, Rich Cordray was finally confirmed — (laughter) — by the United States Senate to keep serving as America’s consumer watchdog and as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  So we’re very pleased about that.  (Applause.)

I first nominated Rich for this position two years ago this week.  (Laughter.)  He was eminently qualified.  He had the support of Democrats and Republicans from across the country.  A majority of state attorneys general from both parties — Rich’s former colleagues — called on him to be confirmed.  And for two years, Republicans in the Senate refused to give Rich a simple yes-or-no vote — not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place.

But without a director in place, the CFPB would have been severely hampered.  And the CFPB wasn’t able to give consumers the information they needed to make good, informed decisions.  Folks in the financial system who were doing the right thing didn’t have much certainty or clear rules of the road.  And the CFPB didn’t have all the tools it needed to protect consumers against mortgage brokers, or credit reporting agencies, or debt collectors who were taking advantage of ordinary Americans.

As a consequence, last year, I took steps on my own to temporarily appoint Richard so he could get to work on their behalf.  And Americans everywhere are better off because he did. And thanks to not only Rich, but his terrific team — I know many are represented here — we’ve made real strides, even despite the fact that the agency was hampered by the confirmation process.

And I would argue that part of the reason we were able to finally get Rich confirmed today is because he’s shown through his leadership and because of the very hard work that everybody at the CFPB has already done that this is making a difference in the lives of the American people — a positive difference day in, day out.  It’s hard to argue with success.

So, yesterday, Richard was officially confirmed.  I want to thank Senators from both parties, including Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Senator McCain, for coming together to help get Rich confirmed.  And obviously, Elizabeth, who wasn’t a senator when she thought this up, but is now a senator — she was poking and prodding people for a long time — (laughter) — to help make it happen.

Senator Reid’s leadership, in particular, was obviously instrumental in getting this done, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.

And together, we’re giving Americans a guarantee that the protections they enjoy today will still be around next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and for years to come.

While we’re on the topic of nominations, I also want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long the votes that they deserve.  These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people — for students and for seniors, for veterans, for middle-class families.  Special interests, they’ll always have their lobbyists.  They’ll always have the capacity to tilt the system in their favor.  But middle-class folks deserve leaders who are going to stand up for them as well on a day-to-day basis, in the trenches.

So let me use this opportunity to remind people of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Rich’s leadership can do and has done already, even in some difficult circumstances.

Today, if you want to take out a mortgage or a student loan or a payday loan, or you’ve got a credit reporting agency or debt collector who’s causing you problems — maybe they’re not playing by the rules, maybe they’re taking advantage of you — you have somewhere to go.  The CFPB has already addressed more than 175,000 complaints from all across the nation, giving people an advocate who is working with them when they’re dealing with these financial institutions that may not always be thinking about consumers first.

Today, as part of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” efforts, students and their parents can get a simple report with the information they need before taking out student loans.  And more than 700 colleges have joined to make this information clear and transparent.   It’s making a difference.

And by the way, if you’ve noticed that some credit card forms are becoming easier to understand than they used to be, that’s because of the work of Rich’s team and other folks across this administration have done to make sure that people understand the kinds of debts that they’re taking on through their credit cards.

Today, veterans have access to tools that they need to defend against dishonest lenders and mortgage brokers who try to prey on them when they come home from serving their country.  Today seniors are better protected from someone who sees their homes or their retirement savings as an easy target for get-rich-quick schemes.

And thanks to the hard work of folks at the CFPB, so far    6 million Americans have gotten more than $400 million in refunds from companies that engaged in unscrupulous practices.

So this is not just some abstract, theoretical exercise.  Families, many of them hard-pressed, have money in their pockets, maybe, in some cases, saved a home or were able to send their kids to college, because of the work that Rich and his team is doing right now.  And that’s money that oftentimes families didn’t have the power to recover before.

So Americans are better off because of what Rich has done as our consumer watchdog and his outstanding team is doing each and every day.  And, by the way, that’s just the tangible benefits that we know of, that $400 million in refunds.  But part of what happens is when you’ve got a watchdog, people don’t try as many things.  And everybody starts tightening up their practices because they know somebody is watching.  And so that has ripple effects throughout our economy.

So Americans everywhere are better off because of the work that these folks have done.  And now that Rich has gotten the yes-or-no vote he deserved, businesses and consumers have more certainty than they did before that this will continue.

So we’ve come a long way over the last four and a half years.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the past 40 months.  We’ve locked in new safeguards to protect against another crisis, and we are making sure that we are doing everything we can to change the incentives inside the financial system and try to end tax-funded — taxpayer-funded bailouts for good.  And even though more work remains, our system is fairer and it’s more sound than it was when the crisis hit.

Of course, we’ve still got a long way to go to restore that basic bargain, to restore that sense of security that too many middle-class families still are fighting to rebuild.  But if we just keep letting people like Rich do their jobs, if we let all these incredible young people know that you’re going to keep on going for a long time, you’re building something that will last beyond our government’s service and we’ll be providing protections for generations to come — and if we keep focused on that North Star — a rising, thriving middle class, an economy where prosperity is broad-based — then I’m confident that we’re ultimately going to get to where we need to go.

So I want to thank everybody.  And I just want to give Rich a quick chance to say something.  (Applause.)

MR. CORDRAY:  Thank you.  I want to thank the President — this President, in particular, who has believed in us from the beginning.  I want to thank the Senate and the senators for the chance to persevere and be confirmed as the director of this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  All I ever asked for, all I ever worked for was to have a chance to have an up-or-down vote on the merits, and I thank them for that.

For nearly two years, as the President indicated, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.  Today’s action — the action — I was sworn in by the Vice President this morning, and the Senate confirmation — means that there will be certainty for those markets and for the industries we oversee.

For me, it also reaffirms that our central responsibility is to stand on the side of consumers and see that they’re treated fairly, just as the President described it.  It’s something that people deserve.  It’s something that they want and need.  And we’re there to try to provide it.

We will continue that essential work and each one of us — those of us here and those of us in Washington and around the country who work for this new Consumer Bureau, including most especially myself — we’re grateful for the opportunity that you’ve given us to serve our country in this important way.

Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

END
11:16 A.M. EDT

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Political Headlines January 26, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Holding Wall Street Accountable

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Holding Wall Street Accountable

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-26-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Earlier this week, President Obama made clear that in his second term he plans to hold Wall Street accountable for wrongdoing when he nominated two former prosecutors to be top financial regulators.

In his weekly address, Obama’s highlights why he nominated Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and re-nominated Richard Cordray to continue leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Mary Jo White has decades of experience cracking down on white-collar criminals and bringing mobsters and terrorists to justice,” the president says. “At the SEC, she will help complete the task of reforming Wall Street and keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don’t pay the price.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines January 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Richard Cordray to Lead CFPB Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Nominates Richard Cordray to Lead CFPB

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-24-13

The White House

Four days into his second term, President Obama renewed a fight from his first term when he renominated Richard Cordray for head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Obama announced he was throwing Cordray, the man currently serving in the post thanks to a recess appointment, into the ring as his pick to direct the government-run financial watchdog.

“He can’t stay on the job unless the Senate finally gives him the confirmation he deserves,” Obama said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Mary Jo White to lead the SEC Security and Exchange Commission & Richard Cordray to continue leading the CFPB Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at a Personnel Announcement

State Dining Room

2:38 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Over the last four years, I’ve talked about how shared prosperity — from Wall Street to Main Street — depends on smart, common-sense regulations that protect the vast majority of Americans from the irresponsible actions of a few.

That’s why we passed tough reforms to protect consumers and our financial system from the kinds of abuse that nearly brought the economy to its knees.  Today, there are rules to help families — responsible families buy a home or send their child to college without worrying about being tricked out of their life savings.  There are rules to make sure that financial firms which do the right thing aren’t undermined by those that don’t do the right thing.  And there are rules to end taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts once and for all.

But it’s not enough to change the law.  We also need cops on the beat to enforce the law.  And that’s why, today, I am nominating Mary Jo White to lead the Security and Exchange Commission, and Richard Cordray to continue leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This guy is bothering me here — (swatting at a fly.)

As a young girl, Mary Jo White was a big fan of the Hardy Boys.  I was, too, by the way.

MS. WHITE:  Good.  Good.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  As an adult, she’s built a career the Hardy Boys could only dream of.  Over a decade as a U.S. Attorney in New York, she helped prosecute white-collar criminals and money launderers.  In the early 1990s, she brought down John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime syndicate.  And she brought to justice the terrorists responsible for bombing the World Trade Center and the American embassies in Africa.  So I’d say that’s a pretty good run.  You don’t want to mess with Mary Jo.

As one former SEC chairman said, Mary Jo “does not intimidate easily.”  And that’s important, because she has a big job ahead of her.  The SEC played a critical role in protecting our financial system during the worst of the financial crisis.  But there’s much more work to be done to complete the task of reforming Wall Street and making sure that American investors are better informed and better protected going forward.  And we need to keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don’t pay the price.

I am absolutely confident that Mary Jo has the experience and the resolve to tackle these complex issues and protect the American people in a way that is smart and in a way that is fair.

And I want to thank Elisse Walter, who has done an outstanding job holding down the fort as chairwoman.  And I expect the Senate to confirm Mary Jo as soon as possible so she can get to work.

My second nominee is a familiar face.  A year and a half ago, I nominated Richard Cordray to lead the watchdog agency we created to give Americans the information they need to make sound financial choices and protect them from unscrupulous lenders and debt collectors.

As a former attorney general of Ohio with a long record of working with Democrats and Republicans on behalf of the American people, nobody questioned Richard’s qualifications.  But he wasn’t allowed an up or down vote in the Senate, and as a consequence, I took action to appoint him on my own.  And over the last year, Richard has proved to be a champion of American consumers.

Thanks to his leadership, we’ve made it tougher for families to be tricked into mortgages they can’t afford.  We’ve set clearer rules so that responsible lenders know how to operate fairly.  We’ve launched a “Know Before You Owe” campaign to help parents and students make smart decisions about paying for college.  We’ve cracked down on credit card companies that charge hidden fees, and forced those companies to make things right.  And through it all, Richard has earned a reputation as a straight shooter and somebody who’s willing to bring every voice to the table in order to do what’s right for consumers and our economy.

Now, Richard’s appointment runs out at the end of the year, and he can’t stay on the job unless the Senate finally gives him the vote that he deserves.  Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests.  The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them.  And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him.

So I want to thank Mary Jo, Richard, and their families once again for agreeing to serve.  And now I’d like to invite them to say a few words, starting with Mary Jo.

MS. WHITE:  Thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence that you have placed in me and the faith that you’ve shown in me by nominating me to be the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.  I’m deeply, deeply honored.

If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to committing all of my energies to working with my fellow commissioners and the extremely dedicated and talented men and women of the staff of the SEC to fulfill the agency’s mission to protect investors, and to ensure the strength, efficiency, and the transparency of our capital markets.

The SEC, long a vital and positive force for the markets, has a lot of hard and important work ahead of it.  I would welcome the opportunity to lead those efforts and to build on the work of Chairman Mary Shapiro and Chairman Elisse Walter, who I’m very honored is present today.

And finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my husband, John White, who is here today, on what is our 43rd anniversary —

THE PRESIDENT:  Today?

MS. WHITE:  — today — for his strong support of me in seeking to engage in this very significant and challenging public service.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Richard.

MR. CORDRAY:  Thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence you’ve placed in me and our team at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  We understand that our mission is to stand on the side of consumers — our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters — and see that they’re treated fairly.

For more than a year, we’ve been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.  We approach this work with open minds, open ears, and great determination.

We all thank you and the Congress for the opportunity and the honor to serve our country in this important way.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I just want to thank again Mary Jo and Richard for their willingness to serve.  These are people with proven track records.  They are going to look out for the American people, for American consumers, and make sure that our marketplace works better — more transparently, more efficiently, more effectively.  So I again would urge the Senate to confirm both of them as quickly as possible.

And I also want to express congratulations to the Whites for their anniversary.  If I had known, we would have maybe rolled out a cake or something.  (Laughter.)  But have fun.

MS. WHITE:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I hope you enjoy it.

END
2:46 P.M. EST

White House Recap December 31, 2011 – January 6, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Appoints Richard Cordray Head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: DECEMBER 31, 2011-JANUARY 6, 2012

The President appointed Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, spoke on a comprehensive review of our defense strategy, and the White House staff shared its New Year’s resolutions.

West Wing Week

 

Weekly Wrap Up: Protecting Consumers

Source: WH, 1-6-12

Consumer Watchdog: After appointing Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week, the President traveled to Shaker Heights, Ohio to talk about his decision— and the fight to help secure a better future for the middle class. The CFPB is in place to ensure  the integrity of the financial system and protect all American consumers from fraud and unfair play. The President said: “See, most people in the financial services industry do the right thing, but they’re at a disadvantage if nobody is enforcing the rules. We can’t let that happen. Now is not the time to play politics while people’s livelihoods are at stake. Now is the time to do everything we can to protect consumers, prevent financial crises like the one that we’ve been through from ever happening again. That starts with letting Richard do his job.”

Jobs for Youth: ‘We Can’t Wait’ to help young Americans find jobs. The President announced Summer Jobs+, a new initiative that will create internship and job opportunities for America’s young people. It calls for businesses, non-profits and government to work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012.  Employers are still signing on to commit jobs to the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a one-stop search tool for youth to access postings from participating employers that is targeted to launch in 60 days.

Military Strategy: The President spoke at the Pentagon Thursday to outline a new global military strategy— moving away from the expansive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and toward a different posture that emphasizes a new focus for the future. He also reminded us of our duty here at home – to ensure that our troops returning from war receive the care and benefits they deserve. He Said: “We’re also going to keep faith with those who serve, by making sure our troops have the equipment and capabilities they need to succeed, and by prioritizing efforts that focus on wounded warriors, mental health and the well-being of our military families. And as our newest veterans rejoin civilian life, we’ll keep working to give our veterans the care, the benefits and job opportunities that they deserve and that they have earned.”

Year in Photos: From his trip to Ireland to Sasha Obama’s basketball game, the White House photographers have captured it all.  Don’t miss some of the most memorable moments from 2011. Check out the slideshow.

Full Text January 4, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Appointing Richard Cordray as Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Chief in Shaker Heights During Congressional Recess

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses Richard Cordray in Shaker Heights

Source: WH, 1-4-12

20120104 President Obama in Shaker Heights

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at Shaker Heights High School,Shaker Heights, Ohio, Jan. 4, 2012. Richard Cordray, former Ohio Attorney General and nominee as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shares the stage with the President. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama was in Shaker Heights, Ohio this afternoon to talk about the fight to help secure a better future for the middle class — and his decision to appoint Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Speaking before a packed house at Shaker Heights High School, the President said protecting consumers is too important to wait:

When Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them. I’ve got an obligation to act on behalf of the American people. And I’m not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people that we were elected to serve. Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans. We’re not going to let that happen.

Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, joined President Obama as he spoke, and the President outlined his credentials:

You know, you look at him and you think, this guy is not somebody who’s going around picking fights. And yet, this fight on behalf of consumers is something that Richard has been waging here in Ohio for the better part of two decades.

As your attorney general, he helped recover billions of dollars in things like pension funds on behalf of retirees. He protected consumers from dishonest lending practices. Before that, Richard was the state treasurer, where he earned a reputation for working with folks from across the spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, bankers, consumer advocates — had a great reputation across the board doing the right thing.

And, Cleveland, you’ve seen the difference that Richard can make for consumers, and I have, too. And that’s why I want Richard to keep standing up for you — not just here in Ohio, but for consumers all across the country.

The job ahead of Mr. Cordray is nothing less than ensuring the integrity of our financial system. The President said:

[We] know what would happen if Republicans in Congress were allowed to keep holding Richard’s nomination hostage. More of our loved ones would be tricked into making bad financial decisions. More dishonest lenders could take advantage of some of the most vulnerable families. And the vast majority of financial firms who do the right thing would be undercut by those who don’t.

See, most people in the financial services industry do the right thing, but they’re at a disadvantage if nobody is enforcing the rules. We can’t let that happen. Now is not the time to play politics while people’s livelihoods are at stake. Now is the time to do everything we can to protect consumers, prevent financial crises like the one that we’ve been through from ever happening again. That starts with letting Richard do his job.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (212MB) | mp3 (20MB)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Shaker Heights High School
Shaker Heights, Ohio

1:26 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Ohio!  (Applause.)  Ah, it is good to be back in Ohio.  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Shaker Heights — (applause) — home of the Red Raiders.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Mr. President, I love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  And I’m glad to be back.  (Applause.)  I’m glad to be here.

I want to thank your mayor, Earl Leiken, for hosting us today; — (applause) — your superintendent, Mark Freeman; — (applause) — the principal here, Mike Griffith.  (Applause.)  Well, and I know — I’m pretty sure we’ve got a couple of congresspeople here, but I don’t see them.  Where are they?  Okay, we’ve got Marcia Fudge.  (Applause.) Marcy Kaptur is here. (Applause.)  Dennis Kucinich.  (Applause.)  Betty Sutton in the house.  (Applause.)  Outstanding members of Congress, doing the right thing every day.  So we thank them all for being here.  (Applause.)

Now, I understand the folks here at this school have a pretty good basketball team.  (Applause.)  Boys and girls.  (Applause.)  Unfortunately, I have no eligibility left.  (Laughter.)  So I can’t play with you.

I want to wish everybody a happy New Year — 2012 is going to be a good year.  (Applause.)  It’s going to be a good year.   And one of my New Year’s resolutions is to make sure that I get out of Washington and spend time with folks like you.  (Applause.)  Because folks here in Ohio and all across the country — I want you to know you’re the reason why I ran for this office in the first place.  You remind me what we are still fighting for.  You inspire me.  (Laughter.)  Okay, you do.  You remind me that this country is all about folks who work hard and where responsibility pays off, an America where anybody who puts in the effort and plays by the rules can get ahead.

That’s the America you deserve.  (Applause.)  That’s the America we’re working to build.  That’s why I told Congress before the New Year they couldn’t leave for vacation until we made sure 160 million working Americans wouldn’t get hit with a tax hike on January 1st.  (Applause.)

Now, this wasn’t easy.  It should have been easy, but it wasn’t.  But in the end, we got members of both parties to come together and make sure that you could keep more money in your paychecks each month.  And you’re keeping that extra $40 in every paycheck because we made sure that we didn’t stunt the recovery. We made sure that families got the break that they need.  And that means more security for your families.  It also means a boost for our economy at a time when we’ve got to do everything we can to keep it growing.  Because more money spent by more Americans means more businesses hiring more workers.

And so when I — when Congress returns, I’m going to urge them to extend this tax cut all the way through 2012, with no drama, no delay.  (Applause.)  Do the right thing.  It is a no-brainer.  Let’s get it done.  Let’s pass these tax cuts.  (Applause.)

Now, we still have more to do.  So today, we’re taking another important step — one that will bring us closer to the economy that we need, an economy where everybody plays by the same rules.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  And to help us do that, I’m joined by somebody you might recognize — Richard Cordray.  (Applause.)  Son of Ohio; a good, good man.  (Applause.)  Today I’m appointing Richard as America’s consumer watchdog.  (Applause.)  And that means he is going to be in charge of one thing:  looking out for the best interests of American consumers.  Looking out for you.  (Applause.)

His job will be to protect families like yours from the abuses of the financial industry.  His job will be to make sure that you’ve got all the information you need to make important financial decisions.  Right away, he’ll start working to make sure millions of Americans are treated fairly by mortgage brokers and payday lenders and debt collectors.  In fact, just this week, his agency is opening up a simple 1-800 number that you can call to make sure you’re getting a fair deal on your mortgage, and hold banks and brokers accountable if you’re not.  (Applause.)

Now, I nominated Richard for this job last summer, so you may be wondering why am I appointing him today.  It would be a good question.  (Laughter.)  For almost half a year, Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard’s confirmation.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They refused to even give Richard and up or down vote.  Now, this is not because Richard is not qualified.  There’s no question that Richard is the right person for the job. He’s got the support of Democrats and Republicans around the country.  A majority of attorney generals — Richard is a former attorney general — a majority of attorney generals from both parties across the country have called for Richard to be confirmed.  Your local members of Congress who are here today — they support him.  He has the support of a majority in the Senate.  Everyone agrees Richard is more than qualified.

So what’s the problem, you might ask.  The only reason Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard is because they don’t agree with the law that set up a consumer watchdog in the first place.  They want to weaken the law.  They want to water it down.  And by the way, a lot of folks in the financial industry have poured millions of dollars to try to water it down.

That makes no sense.  Does anybody think that the reason that we got in such a financial mess, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in a generation — that the reason was because of too much oversight of the financial industry?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Of course not.  We shouldn’t be weakening oversight.  We shouldn’t be weakening accountability.  We should be strengthening it — especially when it comes to looking out for families like yours.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  The financial firms have armies of lobbyists in Washington looking out for their interest.  You need somebody looking out for your interest and fighting for you, and that’s Richard Cordray.  (Applause.)

Now, I have to say Richard is a really nice guy.  (Laughter.)  You know, you look at him and you think, this guy is not somebody who’s going around picking fights.  And yet, this fight on behalf of consumers is something that Richard has been waging here in Ohio for the better part of two decades.  (Applause.)

As your attorney general, he helped recover billions of dollars in things like pension funds on behalf of retirees.  He protected consumers from dishonest lending practices.  Before that, Richard was the state treasurer, where he earned a reputation for working with folks from across the spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, bankers, consumer advocates — had a great reputation across the board doing the right thing.

And, Cleveland, you’ve seen the difference that Richard can make for consumers, and I have, too.  And that’s why I want Richard to keep standing up for you — not just here in Ohio, but for consumers all across the country.

Now, every day that Richard waited to be confirmed — and we were pretty patient.  I mean, we kept on saying to Mitch McConnell and the other folks, let’s go ahead and confirm him. Why isn’t he being called up?  Let’s go.  Every day that we waited was another day when millions of Americans were left unprotected.  Because without a director in place, the consumer watchdog agency that we’ve set up doesn’t have all the tools it needs to protect consumers against dishonest mortgage brokers or payday lenders and debt collectors who are taking advantage of consumers.  And that’s inexcusable.  It’s wrong.  And I refuse to take no for an answer.  (Applause.)

So I’ve said before that I want to look for every possible opportunity to work with Congress to move this country forward and create jobs.  I’m going to look for every opportunity to try to bridge the partisan divide and get things done — because that’s what the American people need right now.  And that means putting construction workers back on the jobs repairing our roads and our bridges.  (Applause.)  That means keeping our teachers in the classrooms.  (Applause.)  That means keeping our cops and firefighters doing what they do, protecting us every day.  (Applause.)  That means helping small businesses get ahead.  (Applause.)  That means serving our veterans as well as they’ve served us, like this young man right in the front.  We are grateful for him, for his service.  (Applause.)

These are ideas that have support from Democrats; they have support from Republicans around the country, independents around the country.  I want to work with Congress to get them done.

But when Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them.  (Applause.)  I’ve got an obligation to act on behalf of the American people.  And I’m not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people that we were elected to serve.  (Applause.)  Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans.  We’re not going to let that happen.  (Applause.)

For way too long, we’ve had a financial system that was stacked against ordinary Americans.  Banks on Wall Street played by different rules than businesses on Main Street.  They played by different rules than a lot of community banks who were doing the right thing across the country — hidden fees, fine print that led consumers to make financial decisions that they didn’t always understand.

Richard and I, before we came here, had an opportunity to visit with a wonderful elderly couple — the Easons.  And Mr. Eason is a former Marine, served in the Korean War.  Ms. Eason makes a really good sweet potato pie.  She gave me one.  (Applause.)  I’m going to eat it later, after.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t want to eat it before because I didn’t want to get sleepy having a big piece of pie right before.  (Laughter.)

But their story was the story of a lot of folks in this region, where a mortgage broker came to them, said that they could do some home repair for a few thousand dollars, and they ended up getting scammed; the loans got flipped.  They ended up owing $80,000, almost losing their home, and the repairs were never made.

Those kinds of practices, that’s not who we are.  We cannot allow people to be taken advantage of.  And it’s not just because it’s bad for those individuals.  All that risky behavior led — helped to contribute to the economic crisis that we’re all still digging ourselves out of.  All those subprime loans, all those foreclosures, all the problems in the housing market — that’s all contributing to an economy that’s not moving as fast as we want it.

And that’s why, last year, we put in place new rules — new rules of the road to make sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector can’t break the law, they can’t cheat consumers, they can’t put our entire economy in danger.  And many of these provisions are already starting to make a difference.  For the first time in history, we put in place a consumer watchdog — someone whose only job is to look out for the interests of everyday Americans.

And we are so fortunate to have somebody like Richard who’s willing to do it, despite great sacrifice to his family.  He’s the right man for the job.  (Applause.)

So if you’re a student — I see some young people out here  — (applause) — his job will be to protect you from dishonest lending practices and to make sure that you’ve got the information you need on student loans.  (Applause.)  He has already started up an initiative called “Know Before You Owe.”  (Laughter.)  That’s a good slogan — “Know Before You Owe.”  You don’t want to owe and then know.  (Laughter.)

If you’re a veteran, he’ll help make sure that you aren’t taken advantage of when you’re coming home from serving your country.  And it turns out that military families are some of the folks who are most vulnerable to some of these financial abuses.
If you’re a senior, Richard is going to help make sure you don’t lose your home or your retirement because somebody saw you as an easier target.  And that’s what happened to the Easons.  Endia, who I think is here — Ms. Eason, are you here?  You’re somewhere here.  There’s — Ms. Eason is down there.  Ninety-one years old.  (Applause.)  And as I mentioned, Ms. Eason’s husband, William, is a former Marine — also a former boxer.  So don’t mess with him.  (Laughter.)

And I just want to repeat, 10 years ago they were approached by a broker who offered them a loan to make needed repairs on their home; made everything sound easy.  The Easons agreed.  Broker ended up disappearing.  They get left with $80,000 in debt, almost lose their home.  They didn’t lose it because of the intervention of some terrific non-for-profits that Richard, when he was treasurer here in Ohio, helped to support.  (Applause.)

East Side — that’s right.  (Applause.)

Now, the Easons are good people.  They’re what America is all about.  They worked hard.  They served their country.  They saved their money.  They didn’t live high on the hog.  It’s a modest house.  They earned the right to retire with dignity and with respect, and they shouldn’t have to worry about being tricked by somebody who’s out to make a quick buck.  And they need somebody who is going to stand up for them, and millions of Americans need somebody who is going to look out for their interests.  And that person is Richard Cordray.  (Applause.)

And we know what would happen if Republicans in Congress were allowed to keep holding Richard’s nomination hostage.  More of our loved ones would be tricked into making bad financial decisions.  More dishonest lenders could take advantage of some of the most vulnerable families.  And the vast majority of financial firms who do the right thing would be undercut by those who don’t.

See, most people in the financial services industry do the right thing, but they’re at a disadvantage if nobody is enforcing the rules.  We can’t let that happen.  Now is not the time to play politics while people’s livelihoods are at stake.  Now is the time to do everything we can to protect consumers, prevent financial crises like the one that we’ve been through from ever happening again.  That starts with letting Richard do his job.

So I know — let me just close by saying this.  I know that you’re hearing a lot of promises from a lot of politicians lately.  Today you’re only going to hear one from me.  As long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I promise to do everything I can every day, every minute, every second, to make sure this is a country where hard work and responsibility mean something and everybody can get ahead.  Not just those at the very top, not just those who know how to work the system, but everybody.

That’s what America has always been about.  (Applause.)  That’s what America is going to be about today and tomorrow and 10 years from now and 20 years from now.  And with the help of people like Richard Cordray, that’s the country that we will always be.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
1:48 P.M. EST

Full Text December 10, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Focuses on Middle Class Issues — Extending the Payroll Tax Cut & Confirming Richard Cordray to Lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Obama tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 12/9/11

Weekly Address: Ensuring a Fair Shot for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 12-10-11

President Obama calls on Congress to do what’s right for the American people by extending the payroll tax cut and confirming Richard Cordray to lead a new consumer-watchdog agency that will protect families from dishonest business practices.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Ensuring a Fair Shot for the Middle Class

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that the United States succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and engages in fair play.  This is why the President nominated Richard Cordray to lead a new consumer-watchdog agency designed to protect families from being taken advantage of, but Republicans in Congress have blocked the nomination. They have also stood in the way of a balanced plan to extend the payroll tax cut for working families – and the President made clear he believes that elected officials should not go home for the holidays until they’ve done what is right for the American people and for the economy by extending this tax cut.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
The White House
Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today, America faces a make-or-break moment for the middle class.

After the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, some still want to return to the same policies that got us into this mess.  They’re the same policies that have stacked the deck against working Americans for too long.  They’re part of a philosophy that says we’re better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

But I have a different vision.  I believe that we are greater together than we are on our own.  I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone engages in fair play.

To ensure fair play, last year, we passed the toughest financial reform in generations.

See, for too long, the rules weren’t the same on Wall Street as they were on Main Street.  Risky bets were made with other people’s money.  Some folks made a lot of money taking advantage of consumers.  It was wrong.  And this irresponsible behavior on the part of some contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

So this financial reform refocuses the financial sector on what’s really important: getting capital to entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses, and financing to millions of families who want to buy a house or send their kids to college.

A key part of that was putting in place the first-ever consumer watchdog – someone whose job it is to protect American families from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and debt collectors.

Tens of millions of Americans use these services.  Protecting them from unscrupulous practices is an important job.  And that’s why I nominated Richard Cordray to serve as the head of this consumer watchdog agency.

As the former Attorney General of Ohio, Richard helped recover billions of dollars on behalf of retirees and stood up to dishonest lending practices.  He has the support of most Attorneys General across the country, both Democrats and Republicans.  Members of Congress from both parties say he’s more than qualified for the job.  And yet on Thursday, Republicans blocked his nomination.  They refused to even allow it to come up for a vote.

That doesn’t make any sense.  Do Republicans in Congress think our financial crisis was caused by too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?  Of course not.   And every day America has to wait for a new consumer protection watchdog is another day that dishonest businesses can target and take advantage of students, seniors, and service members.

So I refuse to take “no” for an answer.  Financial institutions have plenty of high-powered lawyers and lobbyists looking out for them.  It’s time consumers had someone on their side.

And while they’re at it, Republicans in Congress should stop the games and extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans. Because if they don’t, nearly 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up at the end of this month.

Congress can’t end the year by taking money out of the pockets of working Americans.  Now is not the time for playing politics.  Now is the time to do what’s right for the American people.

No one should go home for the holidays until we get this done.  So tell your Members of Congress, don’t be a Grinch.  Tell them to do the right thing for you and for our economy.  Thank you.

White House Recap December 3-9, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Advocates Payroll Tax Cut Extension & the Middle Class in Populist Economic Speech in Osawatomie, Kansas — Channels Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: DECEMBER 3-9, 2011

This week, the President gave a major address on the defining issue of our time, restoring economic security to the middle class.

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: The Clock is Ticking

Source: WH, 12-9-11

Download Video: mp4 (205.5MB)

Tax Countdown The clock is ticking. On Monday, the President urged Congress to pass tax cuts for the middle class before they go home for the holidays. Immediately after the briefing, the White House launched a countdown clock on WhiteHouse.gov and in the press briefing room, to let people know exactly how much time is left before taxes go up for middle class families without congress. Later in the week, Senate Republicans blocked the tax cut extension as well as Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—a job that ensures consumer protection. In a press briefing, the President addressed that vote and Congress’ failure to extend the payroll tax cut. President Obama promised to explore all options and take nothing “off the table” in ensuring that the CFPB is able to fulfill its mission of protecting consumers.

Make or Break Moment More than 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt gave his historic New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie,Kansas, President Obama traveled  to this same small town to address the make-or-break moment for the middle class. Some in Washington argue that we should let the markets take care of everything — rolling back regulation and slashing taxes.Thankfully, President Obama said, we can choose a different path: “There’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country. It is a view that says in America we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share.”

College Affordability Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida to talk about college affordability in a town hall meeting. They spoke with parents and students about steps the administration has taken to reduce college costs and the need to keep college tuition low so more Americans have the opportunity to obtain a degree.  President Obama and Vice President Biden have focused on making college affordable for middle-class families since the day they took office.  Before making his speech, the Vice President made a surprise visit to Mayport in Jacksonville as sailors returned from overseas to be welcomed home by their families.

Canada Visit The President welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the White House Thursday to discuss the economy and make commitments to ease trade and travel between the two neighboring nations. The President also discussed Canada’s role in helping put Americans back to work. “Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting people back to work and the important initiatives that we agreed to today will help us do just that.”

Kennedy Center Honors President Obama and the First Lady honored Meryl Streep, Neil Diamond, Sonny Rollins, Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Cook for their lifelong contributions to the arts and thanked them for sharing their talents with the world.  The award winners were honored at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Statement at Press Briefing Discussing Senate Filibuster on Richard Cordray Confirmation & Congresses Refusal to Pass the Payroll Tax Cut Extension

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses Richard Cordray and the Payroll Tax Cut

Source: WH, 12-8-11

This morning, Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of Richard Cordray.

Shortly after, President Obama walked into the briefing room here at the White House to address that vote — and the refusal of Congress to extend the payroll tax cut.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (190MB) | mp3 (18MB)

The President spoke first about his nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

Consumers across the country understand that part of the reason we got into the financial mess that we did was because regulators were not doing their jobs.  People were not paying attention to what was happening in the housing market; people weren’t paying attention to who was being taken advantage of.  There were folks who were making a lot of money taking advantage of American consumers.

This individual’s job is to make sure that individual consumers are protected — everybody from seniors to young people who are looking for student loans, to members of our Armed Services who are probably more vulnerable than just about anybody when it comes to unscrupulous financial practices.

There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated, and should not be confirmed by the Senate, and should not be doing his job right away in order to carry out his mandate and his mission.

President Obama promised to explore all options and take nothing “off the table” with respect to ensuring that the CFPB is able to fulfill its mission of protecting consumers.

He also insisted that lawmakers stay at work in Washington until they’ve reached an agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance:

This is for 160 million people who, in 23 days, are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn’t act. This is for 5 million individuals who are out there looking for a job and can’t find a job right now in a tough economy who could end up not being able to pay their bills or keep their house if Congress doesn’t act.

“Rather than trying to figure out what they can extract politically from me, what they need to do is focus on what’s good for the economy, what’s good for jobs, and what’s good for the American people.” President Obama said.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by the President

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:40 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  A couple of days ago I said that we are in a make-or-break moment when it comes to America’s middle class.  We either have a country where everybody fends for themselves, or we create a country where everybody does their fair share, everybody has got a fair chance, and we ensure that there’s fair play out there.

Now, to ensure fair play, one of the things that I talked about was the importance of making sure we implement financial reform, Wall Street reform that was passed last year.  And a key component of that was making sure that we have a consumer watchdog in place who can police what mortgage brokers and payday lenders and other non-bank financial entities are able to do when it comes to consumers.

This is a big deal.  About one-in-five people use these kinds of mechanisms to finance everything from buying a house to cashing their checks.  And we passed a law last year that said we need this consumer watchdog in place to make sure that people aren’t taken advantage of.

Now, we have nominated somebody — Richard Cordray, former attorney general and treasurer of Ohio — who everybody says is highly qualified.  The majority of attorney generals, Republican and Democrat, from across the country have said this is somebody who can do the job with integrity, who has a tradition of being a bipartisan individual who looks out for the public interest, and is ready to go.  And he actually helped set up the Consumer Finance Protection Board.

This morning, Senate Republicans blocked his nomination, refusing to let the Senate even go forward with an up or down vote on Mr. Cordray.  This makes absolutely no sense.

Consumers across the country understand that part of the reason we got into the financial mess that we did was because regulators were not doing their jobs.  People were not paying attention to what was happening in the housing market; people weren’t paying attention to who was being taken advantage of.  There were folks who were making a lot of money taking advantage of American consumers.

This individual’s job is to make sure that individual consumers are protected — everybody from seniors to young people who are looking for student loans, to members of our Armed Services who are probably more vulnerable than just about anybody when it comes to unscrupulous financial practices.

There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated, and should not be confirmed by the Senate, and should not be doing his job right away in order to carry out his mandate and his mission.

So I just want to send a message to the Senate:  We are not giving up on this.  We’re going to keep on going at it.  We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected by unscrupulous financial operators.  And we’re going to keep on pushing on this issue.

Now, the second thing I want to make clear about is that, with respect to the payroll tax — you guys have all seen our countdown clock behind us.  This is about doing — making sure that everybody is doing their fair share and that the middle class does not see their taxes go up by $1,000 in 23 days.

And we’ve heard recently some intimations from the Senate Majority Leader and from the Speaker of the House — or the Senate Minority Leader and the Speaker of the House that they think we should do a payroll tax, but the question is what price will they extract from the President in order to get it done.

And I just want to make clear:  This is not about me.  They shouldn’t extend the payroll tax cut for me.  They shouldn’t extend unemployment insurance for me.  This is for 160 million people who, in 23 days, are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn’t act.  This is for 5 million individuals who are out there looking for a job and can’t find a job right now in a tough economy who could end up not being able to pay their bills or keep their house if Congress doesn’t act.

So rather than trying to figure out what can they extract politically from me in order to get this thing done, what they need to do is be focused on what’s good for the economy, what’s good for jobs and what’s good for the American people.

And I made very clear I do not expect Congress to go home unless the payroll tax cut is extended and unless unemployment insurance is extended.  It would be wrong for families, but it would also be wrong for the economy as a whole.

With that, I’m going to take a couple of questions.  Ben.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s a very busy time.  If I may, I’d like to ask you about two other important issues in the news.  Republican candidates have taken aim at your approach to foreign policy, particularly the Middle East and Israel, and accused you of appeasement.  I wanted to get your reaction to that.  And also, I’m wondering if you personally intervened in any way in halting the sale of the “morning after” pill to those under 17, and whether you think politics trumps science in this case.

THE PRESIDENT:  Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22-out-of-30 top al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement.  Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that.

With respect to the Plan B, I did not get involved in the process.  This was a decision that was made by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS.

I will say this, as the father of two daughters.  I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.  And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.  And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

So the expectation here is — I think it’s very important to understand that, for women, for those over 17, this continues to be something that you can go in and purchase from a drugstore.  It has been deemed safe by the FDA.  Nobody is challenging that. When it comes to 12-year-olds or 13-year-olds, the question is can we have confidence that they would potentially use Plan B properly.  And her judgment was that there was not enough evidence that this potentially could be used improperly in a way that had adverse health effects on those young people.

Q    Do you fully support the decision?

THE PRESIDENT:  I do.

Q    Mr. President, is a recess appointment for Richard Cordray on the table, number one.  And number two, the Italian Prime Minister, the new Prime Minister indicated today he may be coming to the White House next month.  Do you think he and other European leaders are stepping up in the way you’ve urged them to, to sort of clear up the debt crisis?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will not take any options off the table when it comes to getting Richard Cordray in as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Board.  And I want to repeat what I said earlier:  This is a law that was passed by Congress that I signed into law that is designed solely to protect American consumers.

I don’t think there’s any consumer out there — I don’t think there’s any American out there — who thinks that the reason we got into the big financial mess that we did was because of too much regulation of Wall Street or the financial services industry.  I take it back.  I’m sure there are some folks in the financial service industry who make that argument, although I’m not sure that they make it with a straight face.

So let’s just take a very specific example:  All the families out there who have now lost their home, after having paid their mortgage over and over again, because they were told that they could afford this home; they didn’t understand all the documentation that was involved — this was peddled deliberately to them, even though a mortgage broker might have known that there was no way that they could keep up with these payments — and now they’re out on the street because nobody was making sure that there’s fair play and fair dealing in the mortgage industry on it.  Now, why wouldn’t we want to have somebody just to make sure that people are being treated fairly?  Especially when not only is that family affected, but our whole economy is affected.

This is part of what I was talking about a couple of days ago.  We have a Congress right now, Republicans in Congress right now, who seem to have entirely forgotten how we got into this mess.  And part of the reason was because we did not empower our regulators to make sure that they were ensuring fair play.  That’s what the Consumer Finance Protection Board is designed to do.

We had Holly Petraeus, wife of General Petraeus, who’s been working to make sure that our Armed Services personnel aren’t taken advantage of.  They get transferred to a base, and next thing they know they’re taking out loans that they think are a good deal, but it turns out that they’re paying 100-150-200 percent interest rates.  Why wouldn’t we want somebody in place to make sure that doesn’t happen?  It doesn’t make any sense.

So the bottom line is — you asked about the recess appointment — we’re going to look at all our options.  My hope and expectation is, is that the Republicans who blocked this nomination come to their senses.  And I know that some of them have made an argument, well, we just want to sort of make some modifications in the law.  Well, they’re free to introduce a bill and get that passed.

But part of what’s happened over on Capitol Hill — not just on this issue, but on every issue — is they will hold up nominations, well-qualified judges aren’t getting a vote — I’ve got assistant secretaries to the Treasury who get held up for no reason, just because they’re trying to see if they can use that to reverse some sort of law that’s already been passed.  And that’s part of what gets the American people so frustrated — because they don’t feel like this thing is on the level.

Q    The European crisis, do you have any sense —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, on the European debt crisis — I am obviously very concerned about what’s happening in Europe.  I’ve expressed those concerns repeatedly to President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, all the key leaders involved.  I think they now recognize the urgency of doing something serious and bold.  The question is whether they can muster the political will to get it done.

Look, Europe is wealthy enough that there’s no reason why they can’t solve this problem.  It’s not as if we’re talking about some impoverished country that doesn’t have any resources, and is being buffeted by the world markets, and they need to come hat in hand and get help.  This is Europe, with some of the wealthiest countries on Earth; collectively one of the largest markets on Earth, if not the largest.  And so if they muster the political will, they have the capacity to settle markets down, make sure that they are acting responsibly, and that governments like Italy are able to finance their debt.

And I think that Chancellor Merkel has made some progress with other European leaders in trying to move towards a fiscal compact where everybody is playing by the same rules and nobody is acting irresponsibly.  I think that’s all for the good, but there’s a short-term crisis that has to be resolved to make sure that markets have confidence that Europe stands behind the euro.

And we’re going to do everything we can to push them in a good direction on this, because it has a huge impact on what happens here in the United States.  They are our largest trading partner, and we’re seeing some positive signs in our economy, but if we see Europe tank, that obviously could have a big impact on our ability to generate the jobs that we need here in the United States.

I’m going to answer one last question.  Kristen — Kristen Welker.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  You just called on Congress not to leave until they resolve this issue over the payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance benefits.  Can you say definitively that you will postpone your own vacation until these two matters are resolved?

And also, on Iran, we’ve heard some sharper language from members of your administration about Iran recently.  Are you intentionally trying to ramp up the pressure on Iran?  And given that you stated that no options are off the table, should we take that to mean that you are considering some other options?

THE PRESIDENT:  No options off the table means I’m considering all options.

Q    Can you tell us specifically what those options might be?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  But what I can say with respect to Iran, I think it’s very important to remember, particularly given some of the political noise out there, that this administration has systematically imposed the toughest sanctions on Iraq — on Iran ever.

When we came into office, the world was divided, Iran was unified and moving aggressively on its own agenda.  Today, Iran is isolated, and the world is unified in applying the toughest sanctions that Iran has ever experienced.  And it’s having an impact inside of Iran.  And that’s as a consequence of the extraordinary work that’s been done by our national security team.

Now, Iran understands that they have a choice:  They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and foreswearing the development of nuclear weapons, which would still allow them to pursue peaceful nuclear power, like every other country that’s a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the entire world.  And if they are pursuing nuclear weapons, then I have said very clearly, that is contrary to the national security interests of the United States; it’s contrary to the national security interests of our allies, including Israel; and we are going to work with the world community to prevent that.

With respect to my vacation, I would not ask anybody to do something I’m not willing to do myself.  So I know some of you might have been looking forward to a little sun and sand — (laughter) — but the bottom line is, is that we are going to stay here as long as it takes to make sure that the American people’s taxes don’t go up on January 1st, and to make sure that folks who desperately need unemployment insurance get that help. And there’s absolutely no excuse for us not getting it done.

Keep in mind, on the payroll tax cut, this is something that Democrats and Republicans agreed to last year with little fanfare, and it was good for the economy.  And independent economists estimate that for us to not extend it right now — to not extend payroll tax cut, not extend unemployment insurance — would have a significant, adverse impact on our economy, right at a time when we’re supposed to be growing the economy.

So when I hear the Speaker or the Senate Republican leader wanting to dicker, wanting to see what can they extract from us in order to get this done, my response to them is, just do the right thing:  Focus on the American people, focus on the economy right now.

I know the suggestion right now is, is that somehow, well, this Keystone issue will create jobs.  That’s being determined by the State Department right now, and there is a process.  But here’s what I know:  However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline, they’re going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance.

Get it done.  And if not, maybe we’ll have a white Christmas here in Washington.   And I look forward to spending a lot of time with you guys — (laughter) — between now and the New Year.

All right.  Thank you, guys.

END
12:00 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 8, 2011: Senate Republicans Block Obama Nominee to Lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

IN FOCUS: SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK OBAMA NOMINEE TO LEAD THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU RICHARD CORDRAY

GOP blocks Obama nominee to head financial agency: Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked President Barack Obama’s choice to head the new consumer protection agency that was designed to help curtail the excesses and abuses that led to the financial meltdown…. – AP, 12-8-11

  • Senate Republicans Block Obama Pick to Lead Consumer Panel: The Senate blocked President Obama’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as filibustering Republicans who oppose the very powers of the new agency successfully challenged one of the administration’s main responses to the financial crisis.
    The nomination of Richard Cordray was rejected after Democrats failed to achieve the 60 votes they needed to move his nomination forward. The vote was 53 yes, 45 no.
    Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said his party had made clear for months that it would not approve a leader for the watchdog consumer agency until the law that established it was amended…. – NYT, 12-8-11
  • Senate Republicans block Obama’s nominee to head consumer watchdog agency: In a long-awaited vote Thursday morning, Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee to lead his signature consumer watchdog agency, a move that prevents it from exercising many of its broad new powers.
    Republicans relied on a procedural vote to keep the Senate from even considering former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray for the top job at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
    Though GOP lawmakers have praised Cordray’s qualifications for the job — he currently serves as the CFPB’s director of enforcement — they have pledged to prevent any candidate from being confirmed unless significant structural change are made to the bureau…. – WaPo, 12-8-11
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