Senate Democrats Divided Over Warren as Possible Consumer Agency Chief

Posted September 14, 2010 at 3:11pm

Democratic Senators were all over the map Tuesday as speculation swirled that President Barack Obama is considering appointing Elizabeth Warren to a new financial watchdog post.

Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who has been vocal in his opposition to selecting Warren, said Tuesday that he was “not enthusiastic” about Obama potentially appointing Warren to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Dodd has said that the agency needs a leader and that the nominee should go through the full Senate confirmation process and be subject to a floor vote. He said he particularly recommended against making a recess appointment, saying it would “be met with a lot of opposition.” Some Warren supporters had urged Obama to appoint her to the position while Congress was adjourned for the August recess.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a central player in the financial regulatory debate that eventually led to the creation of the consumer agency, also said naming Warren would be a harmful exercise.

“I would prefer someone who was not going to stir as much controversy in this first round as we establish this new consumer entity,” he said. “We should get off on a strong foot.”

But Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) hailed Warren’s potential selection and suggested Obama follow through. Warren, he pointed out, was instrumental in helping craft the consumer agency when the financial regulatory law was being written earlier this year.

White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Tuesday that a nomination would be announced soon, although he did not elaborate on the timeline.

“You know, as the president has said, she’s obviously — she’s been a stalwart supporter of consumers and consumer rights,” Burton said of Warren. “This was her idea to have this agency. So she’s obviously in the mix, but the — I don’t have anything new for you on the announcement other than what the president has said, which is that it will come soon.”

Warren is a darling of consumer protection advocates and liberals. She currently heads the oversight panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

She remains, however, a widely controversial figure in the financial world and even in the Obama administration, where she has occasionally clashed with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Though liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have pushed for her appointment to lead the consumer agency, it remains unclear whether 60 votes exist in the Senate to confirm her.