Democratic Senators Slam Kathy Kraninger, Trump's Pick To Run CFPB Elizabeth Warren and other senators fired tough questions at Kathy Kraninger, President Trump's nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Democratic Senators Slam Trump's Pick To Run Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Elizabeth Warren and other Senate Democrats fired tough questions today at President Trump's nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Financial industry groups and Republicans are backing Kathy Kraninger's nomination, but Democrats say she has no experience with consumer protection. They fear President Trump is sending her in to weaken the agency and slash its budget. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: The Trump administration says that Kathy Kraninger's job at the White House budget office gives her the skills she needs to, quote, "reform and refocus" the Consumer Protection Bureau. Many Republicans think the bureau has been too aggressive in going after financial firms, but Democrats love it for being a tough watchdog created in response to the financial crisis. They've painfully watched as a Trump-appointed temporary director has already put this watchdog bureau on a tighter leash. But Kraninger today pledged to pursue the bureau's mission.

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KATHY KRANINGER: Under my stewardship, the bureau will take aggressive action against bad actors who break the rules by engaging in fraud and other illegal activity.

ARNOLD: Still, Democrats are skeptical, and the hearing at times grew heated.

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ELIZABETH WARREN: I'm asking you a pretty straightforward yes-or-no question. And I will remind you you are under oath, and lying to Congress is a crime.

ARNOLD: Senator Elizabeth Warren grew frustrated and told Kraninger that she was dodging questions. Given that she's had a policy position in the White House budget office, senators asked her about her role in some of the most highly criticized actions by the Trump administration, including the policy of separating immigrant children from parents at the border. But Kraninger refused to go into any details. Warren says that was because the nominee didn't want to admit that she did play a role.

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WARREN: I went to the border last month. I met a mother who was torn away from her 7-year-old little boy in the middle of the night. She could not stop crying. All she could say over and over and over is, I never even had a chance to say goodbye. These are innocent children who may be scarred forever by this policy. It is fundamentally immoral. And you - you - were part of it, Ms. Kraninger. It is a moral stain that will follow you for the rest of your life.

ARNOLD: Senator Bob Menendez said in the hearing that he had emails showing that Kraninger was an architect of the administration's botched response to get hurricane relief to Americans in Puerto Rico.

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BOB MENENDEZ: Instead of turning to help them, you pinched pennies. And worst of all, I think you treated them like second-class citizens. That does not give me the faith that when you're going to have to stand up for seniors, service members, students, homeowners against some of the biggest financial institutions in this country that you'll do that.

ARNOLD: Republican committee chairman Mike Crapo, though, threw his support solidly behind Kraninger.

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MIKE CRAPO: I have the utmost confidence that she is well-prepared to lead the bureau in enforcing federal consumer financial laws and protecting consumers in the financial marketplace.

ARNOLD: Still, many Democrats made a point of the nominee's lack of any direct experience in the field of consumer financial protection or financial regulation. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

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HEIDI HEITKAMP: Have you ever worked at a bank or a credit union?

KRANINGER: Senator, I have not. And like many...

HEITKAMP: OK. Have you ever had oversight or regulated a bank or a credit union?

KRANINGER: No, Senator, I have not, like...

HEITKAMP: Have you had any final decisionmaking responsibility for enforcing state or federal consumer protection laws?

KRANINGER: Senator, again, like many other nominees approaching different positions, I have not had direct...

HEITKAMP: So the answer is no.

KRANINGER: ...Experience in that.

ARNOLD: Republicans at this point are expected to have enough votes to narrowly approve Kathy Kraninger to be the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Chris Arnold, NPR News.

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