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Obama Blasts Republicans on First 2012 Campaign Trip

President Barack Obama (r), accompanied by Richard Cordray, the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in Cleveland, Ohio, Jan. 4, 2012.
President Barack Obama (r), accompanied by Richard Cordray, the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in Cleveland, Ohio, Jan. 4, 2012.
Kent Klein

President Barack Obama has made his first campaign trip of 2012, taking his re-election campaign to Ohio, one of the states where the election is likely to be decided.  The president defied Republican lawmakers by announcing a key appointment over their objections.

A day after the first battle in the presidential election, President Obama directly confronted the opposition Republicans Wednesday by appointing a director for the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  

The president had nominated former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to lead the financial watchdog agency last July. But Senate Republicans refused to confirm him, saying the agency would be too powerful and unaccountable.

Mr. Obama told a crowd at a suburban high school the U.S. financial industry needs more regulation, not less.

“The only reason Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard is because they do not agree with the law that set up a consumer watchdog in the first place," said President Obama. "They want to weaken the law.  They want to water it down.”

The president, frustrated by the blocked nomination, Wednesday sidestepped the Senate and appointed Cordray.

“When Congress refuses to act and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them," said Obama.

Angry Republican lawmakers were quick to react, saying the president overstepped his authority in making the appointment.

A so-called recess appointment can only be made when the Senate is out of session.  Republicans say that since Senators have been meeting every three days, the Senate is in session.  The White House disagrees.  

In a written statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Mr. Obama’s move an “unprecedented power grab” that “arrogantly circumvented the American people.”

A statement from House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he expects the courts to find the appointment to be illegitimate.

House Republicans have asked Cordray to testify before Congress later this month.

Mr. Obama spoke one day after Republican contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum finished in a virtual first place tie in the Iowa caucuses, with Ron Paul coming in a close third.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Ohio enabled him to take his campaign to one of the states that could decide whether he is re-elected this November.

Much of his speech focused on the president’s advocacy of the middle class, a theme he is likely to highlight throughout the campaign.

“I promise to do everything I can, every day, every minute, every second, to make sure this is a country where hard work and responsibility mean something and everybody can get ahead," said President Obama.

With the Iowa caucuses over, the Republican candidates will battle next in New Hampshire, then South Carolina and Florida, which all have primary elections this month. The candidates have spent much of the campaign so far criticizing Mr. Obama and the Democrats because of the country's weak economy and high unemployment rate.

The president is unopposed for the Democratic Party nomination.

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