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Mary Jo White / Dennis Cook, AP

President Obama nominated former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White on Thursday to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, pledging tough enforcement of new Wall Street regulations.

"We need to keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don't have to keep paying the price," Obama said at the White House.

Also promising to uphold new laws protecting consumers, Obama will also renominated Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Obama had made Cordray a recess appointment after Senate Republicans opposed his initial nomination; the president praised Cordray's work in the position, saying he has "proved to be a champion of American consumers."

In urging the Senate to quickly confirm White and Cordray, Obama said mis-behavior in the financial industry led to the near-meltdown of the economy in 2008. That is why he signed new regulations into law during his first term, Obama said, affecting banks, mortgage brokers, credit card companies, and other lenders.

"But it's not enough to change the law," Obama said. "We also need cops on the beat to enforce the law."

During the Clinton administration, White served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. She specialized in white-collar crime, a key reason for her selection as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

During her tenure, White's office also won convictions related to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa, and put mob boss John Gotti behind bars. "You don't mess with Mary Jo," Obama said.

WHITE HAS A RECORD: As a successful prosecutor

White -- who noted that Thursday was her 43rd wedding anniversary -- said she would work with other SEC officials to "fulfill the agency's mission to protect investors and to ensure the strength, efficiency and the transparency of our capital markets."

If confirmed by the Senate, White, 65, would replace Elisse Walter, the acting chair in the wake of Mary Schapiro's resignation in December.

Senate Republicans have criticized the new financial regulations, saying they will slow economic growth and cost jobs.

The GOP has also attacked creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren - now a U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

In 2011, Obama nominated Cordray, a former attorney general from Ohio, to lead the new bureau, but Republicans blocked him. The president then made Cordray a recess appointment, a tenure that expires at the end of the year.

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, criticized both the creation of the bureau and Cordray's nomination, saying the new federal law "places vast, unprecedented and unchecked power completely in the hands of a single person."

In thanking Obama for his re-nomination, Cordray said he and his agency have focused on "making consumer finance markets work better for the American people. We approach this work with open minds, open ears, and great determination."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Obama nominates White to SEC, renominates Cordray

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