Obama hints at recess appointment for consumer bureau after GOP blocks Richard Cordray

President Barack Obama pauses during a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, in the White House briefing room in Washington.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Updated: 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama on Thursday lambasted Senate Republicans for blocking the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), suggesting in a press conference that a recess appointment for Cordray is not "off the table." 

The Senate on Thursday voted to block Cordray's nomination, falling seven votes short of the 60 required to move the nomination forward.

One senator voted present and 53 voted in favor, while 45 voted against. The vote was largely along party lines with Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., the lone Republican who voted with  Democrats in favor of the Cordray nomination. No Democrat voted against the nomination. Senator Kerry, D-Mass., did not vote. 

Mr. Obama, speaking shortly after the vote, said there was "no reason" Cordray's nomination should not have been approved, and accused Republicans of putting politics before the interests of the American people. 

"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," Mr. Obama said. 

"I just want to send a message to the Senate: We are not giving up on this," Mr. Obama added. "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."

When asked if he might consider a recess appointment for Cordray, the president said he would not "take any options off the table" in getting Cordray through the confirmation process -- though he said it was his "hope and expectation" that the Republicans who blocked the bill would "come to their senses."

"This is a law that was passed by Congress that I signed into law that is designed solely to protect American consumers," he said. "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."

There's a good chance, however, that Congress won't formally recess. Senate Republicans may block a recess if they think Mr. Obama will make recess appointments during it. If that happens, the Senate would meet in pro forma session throughout the period the recess otherwise would occupy.

Few expected Cordray to achieve the necessary support to overcome a Republican filibuster, despite a last-minute White House media blitzaimed at educating voters about the bureau and the consumer protections that would be put in place if Cordray was approved as its director.

Even before Cordray's nomination, 44 Republican Senators -- four more than are needed to filibuster a nomination -- signed a letter to President Obama pledging to block any nominee barring a drastic restructuring of the CFPB. One of the restructuring moves for which they called was the elimination of the director position altogether.

Michael Brumas, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Hotsheet on Monday that Senate Republicans would continue stand by the letter letter because "the White House hasn't responded to our calls to change the structure of the bureau."

"That's basically still our position," Brumas said. "The letter still stands."

On Thursday Mr. Obama invited Republicans who had misgivings about elements of the agency's structure to introduce legislation to Congress that would modify the parts with which they took issue.

"I know that some [Republicans] have made the 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," said Mr. Obama.