WASHINGTON — GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said today that President Obama has “chosen to ignore the constitutional role of the Senate in the nomination process” by using a recess appointment to install Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, declined comment, citing her “present” vote in December on the nomination of Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general.

Collins, like nearly all Senate Republicans, has voted to block Cordray’s nomination. Republicans say they want the structure of the bureau changed before a director is put in place.

“Quite simply, the president should not be circumventing the Senate, and instead he should work to address the serious concerns that many have with the structural flaws of this agency, the most important of which is the lack of budget accountability,” Collins said in a statement. “Mr. Cordray is clearly a qualified individual with a good reputation. I have repeatedly made clear to the White House that my concern is not with the nominee, but rather with the lack of accountability for how money would be spent by this new agency.”

Snowe also has signed on to the GOP demand for a restructured bureau before any director is confirmed. That includes the call for a board of directors rather than a sole director heading the bureau, in addition to the budget concerns.

But Snowe today declined to comment on Obama’s recess appointment move because she voted “present” rather than “no” on Cordray’s nomination when it came to the Senate floor in December, a Snowe spokesman said.

Snowe voted “present” out of conflict-of-interest concerns, not because she had changed her mind about the Republican stand blocking Cordray.

Snowe’s husband, former Maine GOP Gov. John McKernan, heads a for-profit college company that profits from the loans its students receive. Snowe said she abstained after hearing a Senate Democrat name student loan companies as among the industries the bureau lacks power over until a director is in place.

Collins and Snowe were two of just three Republican senators who helped Democrats pass the 2010 financial regulatory overhaul bill that included the new bureau.

Without a director in place, the bureau lacks power over non-bank financial institutions that impact the wallets of millions of Americans, including payday lenders, credit reporting agencies and mortgage servicers and student loan companies.

The Obama administration and consumer advocates say blocking confirmation of a director is simply a back door way to weaken an agency that most Republicans voted against creating in the first place. The Obama administration had hoped Collins and Snowe would break with their party and vote to confirm Cordray.

The only other Republican senator to vote for the financial regulatory legislation in 2010 was Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Brown was the sole GOP senator to vote to confirm Cordray.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected] Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC

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