A George Soros-funded, progressive think tank with deep ties to the White House was first to recommend that President Obama use his executive powers to name a head for the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The recommendation was part of a 54-page roadmap released in November 2010 by the Center for American Progress. The plan contained specific policy suggestions for Obama to bypass the Republican Congress and rule via executive order until the next presidential election.
Just last week, Obama drew strong Republican criticism when he used his recess appointment powers to name former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Republicans are charging Obama violated congressional rules by appointing Cordray just a day after the Senate held a session. Traditional rules hold that the Senate must be in recess for at least three days before a president can act.
GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner said the move amounted to an “extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department.”
“The precedent that would be set by this cavalier action would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our Constitution,” Boehner said in a statement.
The White House countered by arguing Obama circumvented Congress only after senators stonewalled the nominee for months.
Corday’s appointment, meanwhile, was specifically recommended in the policy paper released by the Center for American Progress immediately following the November 2010 Midterm elections in which the GOP swept to power in the House.
The plan called for Obama to circumvent Congress and push a “progressive agenda” on issues of health care, economy, environment, education, federal government and foreign policy.
On the domestic economic policy front, the center wrote that Obama should “launch the new consumer financial protection bureau with an aggressive agenda to protect and empower consumers.”
Obama seems to have fulfilled that recommendation with Corday’s unilateral appointment last week.
According to its website, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seeks to “make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans – whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.”
Cordray has stated the jurisdiction of the new bureau includes banks, credit unions, securities firms, payday lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services, debt collectors and other financial companies. It’s most pressing concerns, he has said, are mortgages, credit cards and student loans.
In May, 44 Senate Republicans vowed to block confirmation of any candidate to head the new bureau unless the agency’s leadership was changed to a board instead of a single director, its budget was subject to congressional approval and other financial regulators had a greater say in its oversight of banks.
“Congress raised concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability, but the Obama administration still hasn’t addressed those concerns,” John Ashbrook, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, said in a statement after the news broke that Cordray would get the nomination.
Soros group maps out Obama strategy
The Center for American Progress reportedly was founded in 2003 with seed money from Soros, who also donated $3 million to the center’s sister, the Project Action Fund. Its mission states the group is “dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.”
The center is lead by John Podesta, who was co-chairman of the Obama-Biden White House Transition Team.
A Time magazine article profiles the influence of Podesta’s Center for American Progress in the formation of the Obama administration, stating that “not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.”
In his introduction to his center’s 54-page plan for Obama to rule via executive order, Podesta wrote, “the U.S. Constitution and the laws of our nation grant the president significant authority to make and implement policy,” including in executive orders, diplomacy, rulemaking and commanding the armed forces.
“The ability of President Obama to accomplish important change through these powers should not be underestimated,” he wrote.
A summary of the center’s map for Obama’s next two years is listed on the group’s website. The center states it is offering “just some of the many possible actions the administration can take using existing authority to move the country forward.”
On energy, the center recommends Obama use executive power to:
Reduce oil imports and make progress toward energy independence.
Progress toward reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 17 percent by 2020.
Conserve federal lands for future generations.
Manage public lands to support a balanced energy strategy.
Convene and engage hunters and anglers in the development of a fish and wildlife climate adaptation plan.
Generate solar energy on U.S. Air Force hangar roofs.
On the domestic economic policy front, the center writes that Obama should:
Direct an assessment, strategy, and new policy development to promote U.S. competitiveness.
Launch the new consumer financial protection bureau with an aggressive agenda to protect and empower consumers.
Increase the capacity of small businesses to expand hiring and purchases by accelerating the implementation of the Small Business Jobs Act.
Promote automatic mediation to avoid foreclosure where possible and speed resolution.
Create a web portal to empower housing counselors, reduce burdens on lenders, and speed up home mortgage modifications.
Help stabilize home values and communities by turning “shadow REO” housing inventory into “scattered site” rental housing.
Promote practices that support working families.
On the domestic policy front, the center urges Obama to:
Partner with the private sector in health care payment reform.
Focus on health care prevention in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Streamline and simplify access to federal antipoverty programs.
Replace costly, inhumane immigration detention policies with equally effective measures.
In the education policy arena, the president can:
Launch an “educational productivity” initiative to help school districts spend every dollar wisely to best prepare our children for the 21st century.
Ensure students can compare financial aid offers from different postsecondary institutions.
Improve the quality, standards, and productivity of postsecondary education.
In “improving the performance of the federal government,” the center says the president should:
Scrutinize federal spending programs and tax expenditures to achieve greater returns on public investment.
Build the next-generation Recovery.gov website to track all public expenditures and performance in real time.
Use new information technology for faster, more transparent freedom of information.
Create a virtual U.S. statistical agency.
Collect data on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in federal data surveys.
And in the foreign policy and national security arena, the president and his administration should:
Rebalance our Afghanistan strategy with greater emphasis on political and diplomatic progress.
Promote domestic revenue generation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Appoint a special envoy for the Horn of Africa and the southwest Arabian Peninsula region.
Appoint a special commission to assess contracting practices in national security and foreign affairs.
Use executive branch authority to mitigate the impact of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy if Congress does not repeal it.
Redouble support for Palestinian state- and institution-building efforts.
Pursue dual-track policy on Iran while sharpening focus on Iranian human rights issues.
Reinvigorate the U.S.-Turkey strategic alliance. Develop a comprehensive policy on the Russia-Georgia conflict.
“Progressives won in the 2010 mid-term elections,” wrote Karen Dolan, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, or IPS, and director of the Cities for Progress and Cities for Peace projects based at the radical organization.
“The Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the House Democratic Caucus at over 80 members, emerged virtually unscathed, losing only three members,” she wrote, in the piece published on the IPS website.
Dolan declared that “our work is now finally beginning.”
“The veil of a happy Democratic governing majority is finally lifted. We didn’t have it then; We don’t have it now. But what we do have now is a more solidly progressive bunch of Dems in Congress and a president presumably less encumbered by the false illusion that playing nice will get him a date with the other team.”
She went on to recommend that progressives “throw our support unabashedly behind the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and let’s push Obama to finally do the right thing through as many Executive Orders as we can present to him.”