WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama fought back against criticism of his plan for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency Saturday, telling Americans that the new department would prevent them from being confused or deceived by lenders.
The proposed agency - one element of the massive overhaul of financial sector regulations the administration unveiled last week - has come under fire from industry and other critics who say it will introduce unnecessary government intervention into everyday business practices.
"[T]hese are interests that have benefited from a system which allowed ordinary Americans to be exploited," he said. "These interests argue against reform even as millions of people are facing the consequences of this crisis in their own lives. These interests defend business-as-usual even though we know that it was business-as-usual that allowed this crisis to take place."
Obama argued Saturday in his weekly Web and radio address that his proposal would provide a vital layer of consumer protection.
"It is true that this [financial] crisis was caused in part by Americans who took on too much debt and took out loans they simply could not afford," he said. "But there are also millions of Americans who signed contracts they did not always understand offered by lenders who did not always tell the truth."
The president said the agency would also have the power to mandate easy-to-understand paperwork, and eliminate "ridiculous contracts – pages of fine print that no one can figure out."
The administration’s proposal is currently being considered by Congress.
In the weekly Republican radio address, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued against the president’s health care package, saying it was being pushed through Congress far too quickly. “Once again in the health care debate, it’s rush and spend, rush and spend. Americans want health care reform, but they want the right health care reform. And that means taking the time and the care necessary to get it right.
“Against Republican advice, they rushed the stimulus. We shouldn’t rush again on something as important, and costly, as health care.”
The president has said he would like to see a comprehensive health care reform package passed by Congress before the August recess.