(Reuters) - President Barack Obama's nominee to head a new financial watchdog agency said on Wednesday he was ready to get to work, and would not be distracted by challenges to his appointment.

I can't be distracted by that. I've got a big job to do and I need to be 100 percent focused on what we can do to protect American consumers, Richard Cordray told Reuters.

He said his first order of business would be to expand enforcement of non-bank financial institutions, such as payday lenders, which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has not been able to address without a chief.

However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama's plan to use a recess appointment for the new consumer bureau puts the nominee in uncertain legal territory.

Obama plans to sidestep Republican opposition to Richard Cordray by using a recess appointment on Wednesday, but McConnell said in a statement that the Senate is not in recess.

This recess appointment represents a sharp departure from a long-standing precedent that has limited the President to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer. Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress's role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch, McConnell said.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said in a separate statement: I expect the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate.

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