It's not just the Obama healthcare law that's under siege. The federal agency that protects consumers from financial wrongdoing is also facing the strongest opposition yet to its existence.\

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a 5½-year-old watchdog and regulatory agency lauded by consumer advocates, is the target of stark criticism and current Congressional legislation to defang or outright kill it. But even if the agency is able to survive the onslaught of detractors, it faces a challenge: Few American consumers appear to know what the CFPB does.

Others blame the agency for creating paperwork problems and adding unnecessary costs. CFPB regulations have forced mortgage lenders to do more documentation for every loan, says Alan Kaplinsky, a Philadelphia-based attorney and chair of the consumer financial services group at Ballard Spahr, a law firm that represents banks and other consumer finance companies.

"The costs of doing that are extremely high," he said.

Kaplinsky cites one proposed CFPB rule that would require payday lenders—which provide high-interest, short-term consumer loans—to document that borrowers have the ability to repay.

Kaplinsky, who represents payday lenders, maintains that complying with the rule would make business unprofitable for 70 percent of the market, driving them out of business.

"If the payday rule became law, consumers who are desperate for money to pay for a health emergency or something else wouldn't be able to borrow at all," he said. "Or, they could go on the internet to borrow from companies operating unlawfully and pay a lot more money."

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