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Senate Banking Committee Priorities with CFPB Laid Out During Hearing

CFPB logo with magnifying glassCommittee leaders discuss outlook for the bureau’s leadership and structure, which Director Rohit Chopra says has more accountability under a single director.

12/19/2022 2:10 P.M.

4 minute read

Republican and Democrat leaders on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs divided their Dec. 15 hearing with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra between discussion supporting the bureau’s continued actions on medical debt credit reporting and changing the leadership in charge of those actions to a five-member bipartisan commission funded through congressional appropriations.

Committee Chairman U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sought details from Chopra on how the bureau is making sure medical debt is not harming consumers, in addition to actions by the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to not report medical debt.

Chopra responded that the bureau is focused on ensuring credit reports are not a tool to “coerce” someone into paying a bill they do not owe.

ACA International, in a comprehensive letter (PDF) to the committee, outlined concerns with the bureau’s medical debt credit reporting initiatives.

“One of the bureau’s apparent objectives is to completely remove any reference to outstanding medical debts from all credit reports. This goal, if achieved, will result in negative consequences to consumers and harm medical providers throughout the country as they are grappling with reduced revenues and increase patient demand,” CEO Scott Purcell said in the letter. “Unfortunately, the CFPB has not engaged in meaningful conversations with stakeholders in the health care market beyond targeted collection of anecdotal information from select groups.”

Bureau Leadership Structure

Meanwhile, Ranking Member U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who is retiring at the end of this Congressional session, introduced legislation to subject the bureau to congressional appropriations and replace the single director leadership with a bipartisan five-member commission. U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., is cosponsoring the legislation.

“I acknowledge there are other financial regulators not on appropriations—and we can disagree about whether they should be. But, it’s indisputable that Congress has precisely zero leverage over the CFPB,” Toomey said in his opening remarks (PDF). “It’s hard for me to imagine our [f]ounders intended an agency to have the power of the legislative branch, and precisely zero accountability to the legislative branch.”

When asked by Toomey if Congress should change the leadership structure of the bureau, Chopra—while stressing it is Congress’ decision—said there are pros and cons to a single director and a multi-member commission, having served for agencies with both structures.

“I think there is more accountability with a

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