The Justice Department has declared a controversial consumer-protection agency unconstitutional, but Republicans agitating for regime change might need to wait.

While the March 17 filing confirms that President Donald Trump's administration shares the Republican view that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lacks accountability, Trump might be awaiting legal clearance before reforming the agency. As such, the Justice Department's opinion might not drastically affect the CFPB's operations, said Alan Kaplinsky, a partner with Ballard Spahr who has represented companies negotiating with the CFPB.

"I think it very much signals a desire on the part of Trump to not do anything right now but to wait and see what the courts do," Kaplinsky said.

Others think there could be a near-term resolution to the fight over the CFPB's leadership; for example, Richard Cordray, the agency's head, could negotiate a deal to secure protections for the CFPB in exchange for his resignation.

It’s not that simple. The Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that allows Congress to vote on regulations passed by federal agencies within 60 days of the final rule, may come into play. Regardless of how it plays out, a president currently can only fire the CFPB director "for cause."

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in October 2016, as part of PHH Corp.'s case against the regulator, that the agency's structure was unconstitutional. That, and the Justice Department's brief, say that could be remedied by placing the agency in the executive branch, which would mean the president could fire Cordray without proving cause. But, lawyers contend that there likely would be a complicated legal battle were Trump to fire Cordray now.

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