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Maxine Waters pledges to 'undo the harm' done to consumer protection agency

Ben Werschkul
DC Producer

Rep. Maxine Waters laid out a broad agenda for the Committee on Financial Services, which she chairs, in one of her first extended remarks since the midterm elections on Wednesday. She promised to hold "many hearings" and declared it "a new day in Congress for the Financial Services Committee."

The remarks at the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund focused on a variety of issues from low-income housing to Russian sanctions. Waters, a California Democrat, signaled a specific focus on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which was recently headed Mick Mulvaney, now the president’s acting chief of staff. Mulvaney, Waters claimed, had a "direct intent to undermine and destroy" the agency. She vowed to "undo the harm that Mulvaney has done."

The event was delivered to a supportive audience in downtown Washington. Waters received applause when she noted that she is the first woman and first African American to lead the committee.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chair of the House Committee on Financial Services, is asked by reporters about comments by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who used profanity to describe President Donald Trump and call for his impeachment, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

‘I have the gavel’

The crowd also applauded her message of increased oversight of the Trump administration. Throughout her remarks, Waters peppered in asides directly taking on the president. At one point, she said he was throwing a "tantrum" over the shutdown and later noted he had been sued for violations of the Fair Housing Act before he became president. At another point, she pledged to try to cooperate with Republicans but noted "if they don't, I have the gavel." Waters also implied that Trump might not finish his term, saying that her committee would pass legislation “and then we’re going to send it to whoever is president at the time.”

During the midterms, President Donald Trump has singled out Waters — a frequent target of his criticism — saying she would be “put in charge of our Country’s finances.” Both Democrats and Republicans have also wondered whether Waters would use the committee gavel to issue subpoenas to Trump and those close to him. She did not address that topic directly on Wednesday.

‘A breath of fresh air’

In her remarks, Waters did announce the creation of a subcommittee on diversity and inclusion, noting that it was the first subcommittee of its kind in Congress. The moderator of the event, Neera Tanden, expressed hope that the subcommittee would spur companies across the financial sector to increase diversity.

Neera Tanden speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Tanden, the president of the Center, told Yahoo Finance in an interview that she is optimistic about the direction the committee was taking.

"Businesses recognize that to thrive in the economy, we need wages to go up as well," she said. "I think she'll be a breath of fresh air in terms of ensuring that we have a structure that really addresses the needs of working people."

The Chairwoman also kept the focus on her overall agenda instead of individual personalities. The committee's membership is expected to be one of the most dynamic in Congress with at least 15 new Democrats expected to be named. Some of the higher profile names include influential freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, reportedly, presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. While Waters didn’t discuss any individual committee members, Tanden told Yahoo Finance that Cortez "is a phenomenal new voice in the Democratic party, but I think she is one of many voices."

With a GOP-controlled Senate it is unlikely that Waters will get much of her agenda to Trump’s desk. However, she signaled a desire to be a key adversary to the president through the second half of his term noting, "we’re in this to fight and to work hard and to not back down."

Ben Werschkul is the Washington, DC producer for Yahoo Finance.