After months of delays that only just appeared to recently dissipate, the U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra as the third person to serve as the full-time director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), overseeing banks, credit unions, securities firms, payday lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services, debt collectors, and other financial companies operating across the country.
Chopra – who was first nominated to the position just prior to the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January – has seen little momentum on his nomination for most of the past nine months. Chopra, who has served as a commissioner with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) since 2018, is considered an ally of CFPB architect Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). He worked on the implementation team for the CFPB shortly after the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, which called for the creation of the Bureau.
Chopra’s confirmation comes after a series of procedural and political complications kept Acting Director Dave Uejio – now on track to assume a new role at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – in the leadership position at the CFPB since Former Director Kathy Kraninger submitted her resignation on the same day that President Biden assumed office. It was initially believed by some political observers that Chopra – who had gone through Senate confirmation to take his position as a Federal Trade Commissioner – would be able to simply become the Acting Director himself until the formal confirmation process completed.
However, the Biden administration saw that political complications related to the makeup of the FTC had apparently necessitated that Chopra remain in his role there in order to avoid ceding control of that body to Republicans.
“Despite wide-spread expectations that the full Senate will confirm Rohit Chopra as CFPB Director before the end of [March], we now understand that the Biden Administration is likely to seek a delay in Mr. Chopra’s confirmation until it fills the FTC vacancy created by the resignation of former Chairman Joseph Simons,” wrote attorney Allan Kaplinsky, consumer finance law specialist at law firm Ballard Spahr LLP in March.
Chairman Simons’ resignation kept the political divide even between Democrats and Republicans at that time. Chopra’s Senate confirmation hearing to lead the CFPB took place on March 2 alongside Gary Gensler, the nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Gensler ultimately assumed the office of SEC chair in mid-April, while Chopra’s nomination has been in limbo since then.
Prior to Thursday’s vote, Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.) railed against the nomination of Chopra, saying he would transform the CFPB into “the rogue, unaccountable anti-business agency it was during the Obama administration, and we have every reason to believe he would continue to disregard legitimate congressional oversight requests.”
Conversely, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged his colleagues to confirm Chopra, saying he would “be here when people, who feel like no matter how hard they work they don’t get a fair shot in this country, [Chopra] will be on the side of the public.”
Chopra was ultimately confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 50-48, with presiding Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) saying the president would be notified immediately.