Brady Dennis covers the controversy over Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today, noting that she is a short-list candidate for the job, along with Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Barr and deputy Attorney General Eugene Kimmelman, a former official at Consumers Union, Public Citizen and the Consumer Federation of America. The one new piece of information in the article is White House spokesman Jen Psaki contradicting Chris Dodd and saying that Warren would be confirmable:
The White House has been careful to leave its options open, even as officials have expressed faith both in Warren’s qualifications and her ability to win Senate approval.
“While there are a number of strong choices under consideration for this position, Elizabeth Warren is a champion for consumers and middle-class families, and we are confident she is confirmable,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Americans for Financial Reform endorsed Warren for the position yesterday, further proof the largest progressive coalitions have coalesced around her nomination and made this a litmus test.
At the WaPo Political Economy blog, Neil Irwin raises the only half-decent point in Warren’s disfavor, that she doesn’t have the management skills necessary to found and originate a federal agency. I think this is largely a red herring, though. First of all, Kimmelman, another top finalist, has absolutely no experience with financial products, weakening the whole “experience” argument. Second, the claim assumes that Warren will run the agency alone, without top deputies charged with management responsibilities. Clearly that would not be how such an agency would work, and Warren’s commitment to defending consumers from rip-offs and scams would attract the kind of people necessary to make the agency effective. I would argue that it’s LESS important to have an “experienced manager” at the top of a new agency, because there’s no entrenched bureaucracy to navigate. Warren can create the vision for how the agency would work and hire public servants interested in carrying out that vision.
As for her “inexperience” with government, Warren’s leadership on the Congressional Oversight Panel has included something that other federal agencies could use – the bully pulpit. The COP has used online and offline media effectively to publicize their reports and put the issues front and center. There’s no better way to neutralize the bureaucracy than through sunlight.
A word on Shahein Nasiripour’s theory that Warren could head the agency without Senate confirmation by being named acting director – she also could be given a recess appointment, which would be the more common way of handling a nominee of this type. It does seem from the language that Treasury Secretary Geithner has wide latitude to pick an acting head while the agency sits under his control and before it moves to the Federal Reserve. But I don’t know why Warren would want to be an acting head rather than the lead director. With time being short – surely the President would choose someone to be a long-term director – there would be a stonewall effect where her vision meets resistance.