In another signal he is prepared to buck party lines as he gears up for a tough re-election fight in Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown is joining Democrats to support President Obama's appointment of Richard Cordray as the nation's top watchdog for consumer financial products.
The president on Wednesday announced four recess appointments - including that of Cordray, who Republicans had vowed to block as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And while recess appointments are not unusual - Republicans as well as Democrats have historically used the move to push through potentially divisive candidates - Wednesday's action is unusual because Republicans deliberately kept the Congress officially open in an effort to prevent Mr. Obama from doing exactly what he did.
But even while most Republicans are decrying the move, Brown says he believes that Cordray is "the right person to lead the agency."
"I support President Obama's appointment today of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB," Brown said in a Wednesday statement. "I believe he is the right person to lead the agency and help protect consumers from fraud and scams."
The senator added that "While I would have strongly preferred that it go through the normal confirmation process, unfortunately the system is completely broken. If we're going to make progress as a nation, both parties in Washington need to work together to end the procedural gridlock and hyper-partisanship."
Brown was one of few Republicans to support the Dodd-Frank overhaul of Wall Street rules, which created the CFPB. Now, he's running against the woman who created it: Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren came up with the idea for the consumer watchdog agency and was a favorite to lead it. (She was ultimately passed over for the job, likely because of her divisive reputation in Washington.)
The Warren-Brown race is expected to be a tight and costly contest. Warren, a longtime consumer activist and something of a liberal icon, has already . She has also been described as a formidable public speaker.
Brown, meanwhile, is fighting to hold on as a Republican in a solidly blue state. Since he won the seat, formerly Ted Kennedy's, in a 2010 special election, he has repeatedly proven his willingness to break with Republicans on controversial issues including health care, financial reform and Don't Ask Don't Tell, despite the bitterly partisan atmosphere of Congress.
In a Thursday opinion column for the Boston Globe, Brown further touted his moderate stance, blasting Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for what he described as "pandering to the right-wing extreme element" within the Republican party - particularly when it comes to the former House speaker's inflammatory comments on the judiciary branch of the government.
"Gingrich styles himself a historian, but he is either blissfully unaware that the Founding Fathers deliberately established our government with three co-equal branches of government, or he is fully aware of that elementary fact and yet is pandering to the right-wing extreme element in our own party," Brown wrote in the column. "I do not know which is worse. I do know that an independent judiciary possessing equal power with the legislative and executive branches is essential if our government is to operate as it was intended."