by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear what could end up being the most consequential case of the term — in a year where the justices are already taking up employment discrimination, the Second Amendment, abortion, DACA, school choice, and other issues of higher political salience. In Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Court will decide the constitutionality of an agency long criticized not just by the business community and free-market-oriented politicians but also by constitutional scholars who see major problems with its structure as a single-director agency seemingly unaccountable to the president or anyone else. …
… The CFPB is the most independent of independent agencies, with power to make rules, enforce them, adjudicate violations in its own administrative hearings, and punish wrongdoers. And yet a single director heads the agency, one who can be removed only “for cause” — malfeasance rather than, say, a change in presidential policy priorities. The CFPB doesn’t even need Congress to approve its budget, because its funding requests are rubber-stamped by another agency insulated from political control: the Federal Reserve. The CFPB has regulatory authority over 19 federal consumer-protection laws. This concentration of power in the hands of a single, unelected, unaccountable official is unprecedented and cannot be squared with the Constitution’s structure, or with its purpose of protecting individual liberty from government overreach.