WASHINGTON — Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director and acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has picked a deputy at the budget office, Kathy Kraninger, to succeed him at the consumer watchdog agency, a White House spokeswoman confirmed on Saturday.
The choice of Ms. Kraninger, who oversees the preparation of the budgets for cabinet departments, generated immediate opposition, with critics pointing to her inexperience in consumer and financial services issues and her association with Mr. Mulvaney. She was selected over the objection of some White House officials, who argued that her nomination could founder.
“The president intends to nominate Kathy Kraninger” as the new head of the consumer bureau, which was created under the Obama administration to curb abuses by banks, the payday lending industry and other financial services companies, Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement. Word of Ms. Kraninger’s likely appointment was first reported on Friday.
On Saturday, White House officials played down the fact that she has never held a job as a regulator or worked in the financial services industry. “She will bring a fresh perspective and much-needed management experience” to the agency, Ms. Walters said, “which has been plagued by excessive spending, dysfunctional operations, and politicized agendas.” The Trump administration has criticized the consumer bureau’s aggressive regulatory posture under its Obama-appointed director, Richard Cordray.
The appointment of Ms. Kraninger, 43, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Marquette University and Georgetown Law School, prompted strong resistance from consumer advocates. Mr. Mulvaney has sought to drastically scale back the bureau’s investigations and enforcement actions against lenders, especially in the payday industry.
“This looks like nothing more than a desperate attempt by Mick Mulvaney to maintain his grip on the C.F.P.B. so he can continue undermining its important consumer protection mission on behalf of the powerful Wall Street special interests and predatory lenders that have bankrolled his career,” said Karl Frisch, the executive director of Allied Progress, a consumer group that has been critical of Mr. Mulvaney.
“Kraninger has absolutely no relevant experience that indicates she is qualified to be America’s chief consumer advocate,” he added.
Ms. Kraninger is also facing criticism from the right. J.W. Verret, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School and a former top aide to the House Financial Services Committee, compared her nomination to the ill-fated confirmation process for Harriet Miers, the Supreme Court nominee chosen by President George W. Bush who was rejected by fellow Republicans as unqualified.
“This job is too important for word-of-mouth recommendation alone,” he said.
A senior administration official involved in the decision to pick Ms. Kraninger said her selection was intended to turn down the temperature at the bureau, and contrasted her low-key style with Mr. Mulvaney’s confrontational approach.
Still, the official described Ms. Kraninger as an enthusiastic supporter of free markets and could not cite any policy positions with which she will differ substantively from Mr. Mulvaney’s deregulatory agenda.
Ms. Kraninger specialized in homeland security matters before joining Mr. Mulvaney’s staff at the Office of Management and Budget in March 2017.
Last week, Mr. Mulvaney told reporters that he was not participating in the selection process for his new deputy. White House officials disputed that account and said Ms. Kraninger was his clear preference.
Ms. Kraninger surmounted a key hurdle last week when a member of the National Economic Council staff, Andrew Olmem, signed off on her nomination, people close to the situation said.
President Trump tapped Mr. Mulvaney to oversee the consumer bureau late last year, giving the brash former South Carolina lawmaker a mandate to dismantle the agency, which was created in the wake of the financial crisis.
Ms. Kraninger has spent much of her career on Capitol Hill, including serving as the clerk for the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security and working with the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Another administration official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Mr. Mulvaney had picked Ms. Kraninger because she was seen as more palatable, particularly to Democrats, than another candidate, Todd J. Zywicki, a conservative professor at George Mason.
Mr. Trump intends to officially nominate Ms. Kraninger this coming week and “hopes that she will be promptly confirmed by the Senate,” Ms. Walters said.
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