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Elizabeth Warren, Mick Mulvaney spar in Senate testimony over CFPB

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questions Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as she testifies before a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 14, 2017. 

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTSYN2C

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren grilled Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney on Thursday over his numerous votes to abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Mulvaney, the Bureau's interim director, was giving his mandated semi-annual update to Congress about the CFPB, which under his leadership has taken a much more humble approach than in previous years. 

The issue is a personal one for Warren, who helped create the CFPB in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Mulvaney, who was an outspoken critic of the Bureau when he served in Congress, has led the CFPB since President Trump appointed him acting director in November. When Mulvaney was placed in charge of the the Bureau, Warren blasted him as a "Trump-appointed industry hack." 

Warren began her questioning by Mulvaney by saying that "mortgage lenders ripped off families" before the 2008 crisis that precipitated the CFPB's creation. She then noted that Mulvaney has repeatedly voted in favor of legislation that would have eliminated the CFPB, which he has called a "sick, sad" joke in the past. 

Mulvaney acknowledged that he had voted that way, prompting Warren to begin listing off the CFPB's successes. "In 2015, the CPBB went after CitiGroup for cheating its credit card customers," Warren told Mulvaney. "CFPB forced CitiGroup to return $700 million to people that it cheated. Now, if you had gotten your way, and the CPFB had been abolished in 2012, that $700 million would be in CitiGroup's bank accounts right now, instead of in the pockets of thousands of Americans, right?"

"Not necessarily," Mulvaney responded. "The Office of the Control of Currency also has jurisdiction over those actions and could have brought the same action."

"Oh, I see," Warren then said. "That could have brought the same actions. That's the same agency that didn't bring those actions before the crash of 2008 and that didn't bring this particular case. But, you know, let's not kid ourselves, let's not pretend that you hope that some other agency would do that work, Mr. Mulvaney."

Warren then produced a list of 11 bills that said would have made it "harder for states and other federal agencies to protect consumers and to hold cheaters accountable."

Her questioning then continued in the same fashion, with Warren touting actions that the CFPB had taken and Mulvaney saying that the same results could have been achieved without the Bureau. At one point, Warren noted that the CFPB shut down a company called Top Notch Funding that was defrauding 9/11 first responders with medical problems.

"Mr. Mulvaney, if the CFPB had been abolished like you wanted, Top Notch Funding might still stealing from 9/11 first responders, right?" Warren asked.

"They might be," Mulvaney responded. "Or the [Federal Trade Commisson] might have enforced the law…"

"Or some other agency might have magically intervened when they didn't," Warren shot back, interrupting Mulvaney.

"Why would it be more magic to have the [Federal Trade Commission] do it rather than the Bureau?" Mulvaney asked. "Because they have a history of not doing this," Warren responded.

Mulvaney and other conservatives have frequently characterized the CFPB as too powerful and having too little oversight. Warren and other Democrats, however, have long defended the Bureau as a necessity to protect consumers, and note that it has returned some $12 billion to consumers since it has been created.

But under Mulvaney's leadership, the CFPB has declined to take any enforcement actions against companies. "We've initiated none since I've been there," Mulvaney told the House on Wednesday.