Elizabeth Warren, the Chair of the Congressional oversight panel for the TARP funds is without a doubt the best consumer advocate to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Chariman Barney Frank of the House Financial Services Committee has been an unabashed supporter of Elizabeth Warren to head the CFPB. But the other half of the namesake of the financial reform bill, Senate Banking Chairman and retiring Senator Chris Dodd, does not seem to be so hot on the idea.
First, Dodd went on a radio show right after financial reform passed and announced that Warren might be "unconfirmable." But Noam Schieber at The New Republic debunked Dodd's theory and reported that Warren would likely be confirmed should she be nominated, and the White House held firmly to its view that Warren is confirmable. With his "she can't be confirmed" theory debunk by journalists and repudiated by the White House, Dodd has come up with a new tack: she might be confirmable, but the fight would be too hard. On Bloomberg with Judy Woodruff, Dodd said:
I don't know about Elizabeth. You've heard as well as I have that there're people who are critical. Some suggest they won't vote for her. So the White House needs to check. What you don’t need to have is an eight-month battle for who the director or the head or chairperson of this new consumer financial protection bureau will be.Think Progress has the video:
No, really? There are people who are critical and won't vote for her? You don't say! There might be a fight in the Senate over her confirmation? Oh noes, we can't have that!
Actually, yes we can. And if needed, we must. Elizabeth Warren is a tireless advocate, a person of tremendous integrity, and equally importantly, of tremendous expertise in the area of consumer protection. She has taught and written extensively about consumer protection issues, has been a top notch overseer who has been praised by even her Republican colleagues as the Chair of the TARP oversight panel, and is not compromised by industry cash. That is why the banks are lobbying against her.
Dodd's manufactured fear of the fight might also be short-sighted. What would the Republican members of the Senate do when their very own appointees to the TARP oversight panel show up to testify in support of a Warren nomination?
If there is going to be a fight, for the sake of protecting America's consumers, then we should not shy away from it. If there is going to be a fight, there is no better person to have it over. If there is going to be a fight - a fight that even Dodd seems to admit will likely end in an eventual victory for us - then we need that fight. We need that fight not simply to show people that we are on their side. We need that fight for the sake of good public policy.
I don't understand what Dodd's deal is. He worked incredibly hard to get financial reform passed, and met Republican obstructionism in the Senate to the bill with tougher - not weaker - measures until the Republicans bulked. But then, he came out with the dumb and rejected measure in conference to essentially block shareholder access to the corporate ballot. And now he seems to be on a path to kill the idea of a Warren nomination to the CFPB.
Yes, the securities and financial industries have been the biggest contributors to Dodd, but on the other hand, he is retiring at the end of the year. I hate to be cynical, and I hate to speculate, but is he looking to cash in in the banking industry after he retires? Is he trying to send signals to his future employers?
Whatever Dodd's case of the cold feet might be, we need to stay vigilant and continue our fight to support Warren. We are not alone. In addition to having the support of Chairman Frank and the progressive movement, a group of 140 law professors sent an open letter to the President asking for Warren's nomination. Contact your Senators (Senate.gov) and the White House (WhiteHouse.gov) and tell them that you trust Elizabeth Warren to protect you as a consumer. Oh and also, please call Chris Dodd's office and tell him that you are ready for the fight.