I think it’s important to recognize that “the White House” is not a monolith. There are sometimes counteracting forces there, and one aide may not know what the other aide is pushing. Increasingly the internecine fights get aired out in public, though typically anonymously. That’s the best way to read this denial of the plan I mentioned yesterday, to make Elizabeth Warren the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
White House officials denied reports Monday that the Obama administration is considering naming Elizabeth Warren the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency to avoid a tough nomination fight on the Senate floor.
And Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a key negotiator on the reform bill that created the position, told reporters Monday that he “absolutely” believed that any person President Barack Obama names to the position – Warren or not – should go through the full Senate confirmation process.
A little-noticed provision of the Wall Street reform law’s language would allow the Treasury Department to name an interim director of the CFPA until a permanent director is confirmed. The American Banker reported Monday that that White House is considering using the provision to appoint Warren, a liberal favorite who has drawn sharp opposition from Wall Street.
But a White House spokesman strongly denied that Obama would use the provision to circumvent a confirmation vote on Warren. “It’s nothing,” the White House spokesman said. “The president will have more to say about that agency soon.”
I have no doubt that this article, and all of the articles saying that Warren’s naming is imminent, are both right. I have no doubt that some aides in the White House want her to be nominated or appointed through this interim Treasury position, and some don’t want any part of her. We’ve seen this yo-yo before, where someone in the Administration floats a trial balloon, and it’s just as quickly denied. So that’s nothing new.
Let’s get to the most preferred policy. Ideally, the President would nominate Warren to the position and have her appointed interim director simultaneously. That would satisfy Dodd’s need to have a nominee to work on, would satisfy the Senate’s advise and consent, and would also get Warren working on the agency immediately. It would finally give the Senate an impetus to go ahead and confirm the nomination, since the consequences of delay are trivial; she’s already in the position. The Administration should capitalize on this unique opportunity afforded by the language of the law.
Now, there’s another angle to all this. What work has already been done on the agency at Treasury, what staff has been offered to it, and what will Warren find when she gets there? I think Warren’s far tougher than anyone gives her credit for, and she won’t shrink from turf battles, but there are plenty of ways to make someone’s life running a federal agency miserable from the outset. So that’s something I’ll be trying to track.