The House Financial Services Committee late last week approved several bills to restructure the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and curb its powers until the agency’s first director is confirmed by the Senate.

The controversial bureau is slated to become operational on July 21 when consumer protection officials from a handful of federal banking agencies will be transferred to the new entity.  

By a partisan vote of 33-24, the committee approved a bill (H.R. 1667) that would postpone both the transfer of personnel to the CFPB along with new powers to regulate non-bank mortgage lenders and brokers until the Senate confirms a director.

President Obama has been surprisingly slow in choosing a nominee to run the bureau since it became clear last fall that Republican senators would block confirmation of his favorite and first pick -- Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren — to be the first CFPB director.

Senate Republicans are threatening to block any nominee until the bureau is converted to a five-member commission. (The House committee also approved a bill, sponsored by chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., to restructure the CFPB into a five-member commission.)

Committee chairman Bachus said his bill (H.R. 1121) will increase oversight of the bureau and ensure that CFPB rules are "consistent, fair and do not endanger the safety and soundness of financial institutions."

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., noted that Republican lawmakers have consistently opposed the creation of the consumer protection bureau. This "package of bills inarguably weakens the ability of the bureau to function," the ranking committee Democrat said.

H.R. 1667, which delays the transfer of personnel and powers to the CFPB "goes along with Senate Republicans announcing they will not confirm people," Rep. Frank said. 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said it is difficult to get the Senate to "confirm one director, much less five.  I say the CFPB is carefully constructed, urgently needed and should be allowed to start up to protect consumers as intended."

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