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Should President Obama Pick Elizabeth Warren To Head New Consumer Bureau?

Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), at a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week.
Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), at a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week.

As we reported last week, before President Obama signed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law, there are three front runners to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau it created: Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of a congressional panel that oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP); Michael S. Barr, an assistant Treasury secretary; and Eugene Kimmelman, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice.

Of those three front runners, Warren is the vanguard.

As Time's Michael Scherer points out, "It was Elizabeth Warren's idea back in 2007 to create a federal body to protect consumers from the 'tricks and traps' of complex financial products, it was her scholarship that caught the attention of Barack Obama, and it was her efforts with the Administration in the past 18 months that helped make the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection a reality."

That said, if the president decides to nominate Warren, she could face a tough confirmation battle.

According to Scherer, "Warren, an outspoken consumer advocate, is as beloved by progressives activists as she is distrusted by business lobbyists."

Armed with petitions and press releases, liberals and labor groups have been fighting for her appointment, just as many in the business community, wary of Warren's take-no-prisoners approach, tremble at the prospect.

The New Republic's Noam Scheiber, having surveyed "a dozen insiders over the last few days -- congressional aides, industry officials, progressive activists, and a few administration officials," concludes "that the odds are good that Warren would be confirmed if nominated by the White House."

In "Why Elizabeth Warren Will Likely Be Confirmed," he notes how silent the banking industry has been, questions The Huffington Post's report that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is opposed to nominating Warren, and does "the basic Senate math."

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman says that the Obama administration has vacillated enough, and the president should nominate Warren A.S.A.P. -- for the Democratic party's sake.

"I have to say, I don't get the administration waffling on Elizabeth Warren at all," he writes on his blog, The Conscience of a Liberal. "Leave aside the merits of appoint Warren, which are considerable, and think about the politics."

At this point, not appointing Warren would be seen by the base as a slap in the face, and would seriously dampen enthusiasm going into the midterms. And Democrats need every bit of enthusiasm they can muster to avoid a Republican takeover of the House.

Last week, NPR's John Ydstie reported on the fight over the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for Morning Edition:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Listen to "Fight Over First Head Of Consumer Bureau Heats Up"