TEXAS VIEW: It’s the ‘replace’ part that is really trickyTHE POINT — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being targeted in Congress, a case of the financial sector having the ear of our elected officials.

Let’s be clear. The reason the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the cross hairs of the GOP Congress is that it is successful. It is indeed caught up in the general desire to gut the larger package of safeguards embodied in the Dodd-Frank Act, but there is a special place in its critics’ ire for this agency.
Which is to say that if this is what swamp-draining looks like, it bears a striking resemblance to business as usual — Wall Street, not Main Street, having the ears of Congress and the White House. A Texan, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, is leading the charge. He is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Weakening, not eliminating, the CFPB is likely the more achievable goal — and we wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t billed eventually as improving consumer services.
But here’s how that might look: It will cease to be an agency with independence of action. A federal appeals court has already ruled that its head can be fired at the president’s will, but that might be overturned by a higher court.
It could become a commission — like the Federal Elections Commission, terminally tied at 3-3 along partisan lines, which means no campaign finance regulations get enforced because the GOP side of that equation is ideologically opposed. The upshot: a bureau with no teeth. These teeth could be given to other agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission. But don’t bank on it.
How effective is the CFPB? As of July, the bureau had returned $11.7 billion to consumers — $3.6 billion in direct restitution and $7.7 billion in reductions in principal, canceled debt and other relief. It had, by that date, dealt with nearly 1 million complaints and helped more than 27 million consumers. As a result, credit card companies, credit reporting firms, student loan outfits and other financial services have vented to Congress and to President Donald Trump.
The rationale for weakening the bureau is to make it accountable, and to free Wall Street and the banks to compete and better serve us. But the nation has gotten a good look at an unloosed Wall Street and financial sector. The 2008 meltdown, along with the bailing out of too-big-to-fail firms, was not pretty. It is what gave rise to Dodd-Frank, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, and to the CFPB.
As with Obamacare, Congress might find that the deed it contemplates is not nearly as popular as supposed. And the “replace” part will be more tricky than the repeal (or defang) part.