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WHY is the U.S. Senate so intent on watering down belated efforts to protect American consumers from the financial abuses that helped bring down the economy?

The shameful game playing with President Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a prime example.

Richard Cordray was a recess appointee because Republican leaders opted to try extortion. They refused to allow a vote unless the job of director was replaced by a five-member commission and the bureau’s budget could be manipulated by appropriators.

The bureau was the creation of Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard educator and later a White House adviser. She proved so unnerving on Capitol Hill that Obama did not nominate her to be the first director.

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Warren ran for and won election to the Senate from Massachusetts.

The need for a powerful voice was evident in the wake of all the mortgage scams and the contrived financial products for sale.

Implementation of a consumer bureau was part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

No one would argue the Obama administration has moved with urgency or boldness on the consumer front, but the Justice Department has filed fraud charges against Standard & Poor’s, the nation’s largest credit-rating agency.

These fee-driven enterprises were loyal to their clients, who paid them handsomely for providing a veneer of financial scrutiny and a glowing endorsement.

The government’s case against S&P is replete with email traffic full of incredulous exchanges among employees shocked by what passed muster.

Cordray’s recess appointment runs through 2013. He and the consumers he is charged to protect deserve more respect from lawmakers.

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