WASHINGTON, March 19 A U.S. Senate panel voted to move forward two of President Barack Obama's choices to lead financial regulatory agencies, but his pick of Richard Cordray to lead the new consumer bureau likely still faces a tough path to final confirmation.
Democrats who control the Senate Banking Committee had enough votes to move ahead with Cordray's nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but all 10 Republicans on the panel voted against him.
The committee showed little opposition to former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who has been nominated to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, voting 21 to one in her favor. The full Senate next must consider both candidates.
"I think both of the candidates are well qualified for the jobs they have been nominated for," said committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat.
If confirmed, Cordray and White would lead two of the agencies charged with cracking down on Wall Street misdeeds in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
Business groups and Republicans have been complimentary of Cordray's tenure during a temporary stint as the bureau's director. But they want the bureau's structure changed so that it is led by a bipartisan commission rather than a single director.
White, on the other hand, has faced much less opposition. Some advocacy groups have questioned whether her work as an attorney for Debevoise & Plimpton, where she did legal work for clients such as JPMorgan and former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, could create conflicts of interest.
The panel on Tuesday voted to have White fill out the remainder of former chairman Mary Schapiro's term, which expires in June 2014. Obama has also nominated her for a full, five-year term at the helm of the SEC.
The banking committee could vote later on the full term but determined a shorter position was the best bipartisan option now, a committee staffer said. Cordray's nomination is for five years.
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