I’m on a conference call with Michael Barr, the assistant Treasury Secretary for Financial Institutions, about the Wall Street reform bill. Barr has been basically the lead at Treasury on the bill. So I asked him about this disturbing report about Timothy Geithner trying to block Elizabeth Warren from heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was her brainchild.
Barr totally denied this to me. “I don’t know where that (report) came from,” he said. I asked him if he thought Warren was well-qualified for the position and if anyone at Treasury would stand in her way if she were the top choice. “I think Elizabeth is absolutely terrific,” Barr said. “She’s been working closely with me and Secretary Geithner for a year and half to push for this consumer protection bureau. I believe and Secretary Geithner believes that she’s exceptionally well-qualified to run it.”
That’s on the record now. Tim Geithner and his lead deputy at the Treasury Department think Elizabeth Warren is well-qualified to head the CFPB. It’s important that this information gets distributed far and wide.
I’ll have more on the call later, but I thought that was significant.
UPDATE: I’m a little surprised that people think I’ve been spun here. You have the Assistant Treasury Secretary on the record saying that he thinks Elizabeth Warren is exceptionally well-qualified to run the CFPB. In a way this is obvious, given that she invented the concept. But that’s useful information to have. If she doesn’t get it despite that level of regard in the Treasury Department, in Congress and among the grassroots (almost unanimous support there) then we have to conclude that the original Huffington Post article was correct. “If Geithner thought she was well-qualified, why didn’t she get the job?” would be how this goes. I think this makes it harder to deny her, since she’s such a clear choice. And in a bill that leaves so much up to the discretion of the regulators, she would shape that agency in a very positive direction.
UPDATE II: Dean Baker has some thoughts on this, says that Obama must “override his Treasury Secretary” and appoint Warren. Incidentally, this is a position that must be confirmed by the Senate, thought I’d point that out. But we know that, when Obama cares about implementing a tent-pole piece of legislation, he’ll recess appoint. See Don Berwick.
UPDATE III: David Axelrod upped the ante on this in a conference call today, saying that “Elizabeth is certainly a candidate to lead” the CFPB. This has now become an important political test for the President vis-a-vis the base of the party.