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McCain Says He Would Fire SEC Chair, But Can’t

In a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa today, Sen. John McCain said that if he were president, he would fire Chris Cox, the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is charged with regulating the stock market. From McCain’s prepared remarks:

“There was no transparency into the books of Wall Street banks. Banks and brokers took on huge amounts of debt and they hid the riskiest investments. Mismanagement and greed became the operating standard while regulators were asleep at the switch.

The primary regulator of Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) kept in place trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino. They allowed naked short selling — which simply means that you can sell stock without ever owning it. They eliminated last year the uptick rule that has protected investors for 70 years. Speculators pounded the shares of even good companies into the ground.

The Chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the President and has betrayed the public’s trust. If I were President today, I would fire him.”

The only problem is, as ABC’s David Wright points out, “while the president nominates and the Senate confirms the SEC chair,” the president does not have the authority to “fire” the head of the independent commission.

From time to time, presidents have attempted to remove commissioners who have proven “uncooperative.” However, the courts have general upheld the independence of commissioners. In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fired a member of the Federal Trade Commission and the Supreme Court ruled he acted unconstitutionally.

But why let a little thing like constitutional authority get in the way of a firey, populist stump speech?

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