President Barack Obama's decision to bypass Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reflects a political calculation that she would be too polarizing to make it through a Congressional confirmation process. What's next for Warren and the agency she was instrumental in creating?
Obama's announcement has reignited speculation that Warren could run for the U.S. Senate. She is beloved by progressives, something that would stand her in good stead in liberal-leaning Massachusetts. Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman John Walsh told the Boston Globe that he would talk to her and encourage her in a heartbeat if she was weighing a run, and the liberal commentariat has lent its voice to the cause.
In Massachusetts, the Democratic field [to defeat Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.] right now is stunningly weak, and Warren is the one candidate who can galvanize voters and take back the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy, Robert Kuttner wrote in the American Spectator. He added that influential Massachusetts progressives have been in a holding pattern before a strong candidate emerges, and that Warren could win their endorsement.
Meanwhile, the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is still somewhat tenuous. The GOP disliked Warren's fiery style and antagonism of big financial players, but they also distrusted the agency itself. Republicans have argued that it lacks accountability and have consistently pushed for reforms, like replacing a single director with a board of directors, that proponents say would dilute the agency's effectiveness.
Republicans have remained steadfast in that resistance even with Warren out of the picture. A letter signed by 44 Republican senators maintained that they will not confirm any nominee, regardless of party affiliation unless there are structural changes that will make the Bureau accountable to the American people.
The CFPB as created by the deeply-flawed Dodd-Frank Act is set to be one of the least accountable and most powerful agencies in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell, R-Ky., wrote. Today's letter delivers a commitment by 44 Republican Senators to fix the poorly-thought structure of this agency that will have unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions-but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability.
The nominee to head the bureau, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, did not make friends with the banking industry when he went after fraudulent foreclosure practices during his tenure as Attorney General. Jennifer Monty Rieker, an attorney for financial services firms, told Bloomberg that Cordray frightens me the most of any of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's staff.
We have a bureau that is potentially filled with enemies of the banking industry and want to bring us down, she said at a presentation at the Consumer Bankers Association convention, according to Bloomberg.