The government official President Donald Trump wants to pass over as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with his own budget chief is asking a federal court to block the president's appointment.
Leandra English, who was elevated to the position of interim director of the CFPB by its outgoing director, filed a lawsuit Sunday night in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She asks for a declaratory judgment and a temporary restraining order to block White House budget director Mick Mulvaney from taking over the bureau.
English cited the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She said that as deputy director, she became the acting director under the law and argued that the federal law the White House contends supports Trump's appointment of Mulvaney doesn't apply when another statute designates a successor.
English was chief of staff to bureau director Richard Cordray when he named her deputy director as he prepared to resign last Friday. Cordray was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama and has been long criticized by congressional Republicans as overzealous.
Mulvaney, a former congressman, has called the agency a "joke" and an example of bureaucracy run amok. He is expected to dismantle much of what the bureau has done.
The White House, with the support of an opinion issued Saturday by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, maintained that the president has the power to appoint an acting director. Steven A. Engel, newly confirmed head of the office, wrote that, while the deputy director may serve as acting director under the statute, the president still has authority under the Vacancies Reform Act.
A new director must be confirmed by the Senate. Earlier Sunday, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking GOP leader, pledged swift action whenever Trump nominates a successor to Cordray. Meanwhile, Thune said he expected that Mulvaney "will be on the job and he'll be calling the shots over there," but acknowledged the issue could end up in court.
Beyond the fight over who's in charge is the future direction of the bureau, created after the 2008 financial crisis and given a broad mandate as a watchdog for consumers when they deal with banks and credit card, student loan and mortgage companies, as well as debt collectors and payday lenders.
Democratic congressional leaders have argued in support of English and blasted the White House move. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer joined Nancy Pelosi in arguing that English was the rightful acting director. He accused Trump of ignoring the law "in order to put a fox in charge of a hen house."