President Obama will announce this week that Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who first proposed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will be named to a special position reporting to both him and to the Treasury Department and tasked with heading the effort to get the new federal agency standing, a knowledgeable Democrat told ABC News.
Warren's title will be Assistant to the President & Special Adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Warren currently chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel of the Troubled Assets Relief Program and has been seen by many on the Left as a force for greater accountability and transparency, and a check against the forces in the Obama administration more closely allied with the financial sector. Many officials in that sector eye her warily as too anti-business.
At his press conference Friday, President Obama noted that “the idea for this agency was Elizabeth Warren’s,” a reference to an essay she wrote in 2007 in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas in which she proposed a “Financial Product Safety Commission.”
The president went on to call Warren “a dear friend of mine. She’s somebody I’ve known since I was in law school. And I have been in conversations with her. She is a tremendous advocate for this idea. It’s only been a couple of months, and this is a big task standing up this entire agency, so I'll have an announcement soon about how we’re going to move forward.”
Naming Warren as an assistant or counselor to both the president and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner would allow the president to bypass a Senate confirmation process that could prove lengthy and contentious.
“I’m concerned about all Senate confirmations these days” including if he were to “nominate somebody for dog catcher,” the president said Friday when asked if he was concerned about Warren’s ability to be confirmed. “I’ve got people who have been waiting for six months to get confirmed who nobody has an official objection to and who were voted out of committee unanimously, and I can’t get a vote on them.”
Since nominees facing the confirmation process also enter a period of public silence, avoiding the confirmation process would also allow Warren to publicly discuss the agency and its benefits, which the president is eager for her to do.
The president Friday heralded the new bureau, saying it would be “hugely helpful to middle-class families in the years and decades to come…an independent agency, whose sole job is to protect families in their financial transactions.”
Last night Bloomberg News's Hans Nichols and Robert Schmidt reported that the president was considering installing Warren at the Treasury Department to play a leading role in creating the new bureau.
The Wall Street reform bill that became law in July gives the Treasury Department the authority to take the lead in helping to create the new agency. The Democrat said the administration anticipates it will take less than 18 months from the bill’s passage to get the new agency up and running.
UPDATE: This afternoon, Sen. Bon Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote to the president, saying, "I strongly believe the intent of the Dodd-Frank legislation was to have the head of this bureau go through the nomination, vetting and confirmation process."
Corker wrote that the position of director of the bureau "is unprecedented in the nature of its unfettered and unchecked authorities, which makes the confirmation process even more important to the interests of the American people. The individual who heads this bureau will be able to make rules, with ultimately no checks and balances, that could have broad reaching implications for the U.S. economy as it relates to accessing credit, social justice and the safety and soundness of the U.S. banking system. The job is disproportionately reliant on the decisions of one individual with access to large sums of taxpayer monies to carry out the agency agenda."
Wrote Corker, "Taxpayers deserve better stewardship in the determination of who will take on this responsibility. I hope you will take seriously the intent and will of Congress to have a Senate confirmation process for the head of this new agency."