Even as the administration began sounding a more positive note on the potential of Elizabeth Warren earning President Obama’s nod for the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she’s emerged as the clear progressive favorite for the post.
Obama’s team has recently seemed to warm to the idea that Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd splashed cold water on last week, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying this afternoon that she’s “terrific.”
“I don’t think any criticism in any way by anybody would disqualify her,” Gibbs said. Warren, a Harvard professor and author, now oversees Congress’ panel evaluating the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank backs her candidacy.
And even though Dodd and others have said they think Warren would spark a major confirmation battle, Gibbs said today “she’s very confirmable for this job.” While Warren was hailed as a champion in Las Vegas this weekend for the Netroots Nation convention, the New York Times called on Obama to nominate her.
Netroots attendees and senators who would be tasked with voting for the new position said she’s authentic and a fighter for consumers — the very reason some senators believe she might have a tough time.
“I’d love to see Elizabeth Warren [but] … it depends whether you want a confirmation battle,” Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) told TPM in an interview Saturday at Netroots. “There are a lot of banking interests that don’t like her because of her history on bankruptcy issues but I think she’s the right person for the job and I’d definitely like to see her nominated.”
Warren served as chief adviser to the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. Some Democrats and administration allies that are critical of her potential nomination fear that she’s too blunt, too direct, too likely to tell the truth, and point to her outspoken criticism of TARP and frequent appearances on television.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told me at Netroots she’s the right choice and that it would be a “let down” to progressives if Obama picks someone else.
“She’s been a fighter for consumers,” he said. “That’s what’s intrigued all of us that finally we are getting a potential appointment out of the administration that leans toward our side. The initial reaction to her is, ‘Great, one of us.’”
“As much as we want to say that structurally the commission could do a lot of great things, I worry that without a voice, some strength to what they are doing, the influence that we know will come down on them will do so,” Grijalva said. “[We need] a strong voice and someone who doesn’t fit into that culture as much. That would be a strength and we’d have a sounding board we don’t have right now.”
While Warren dazzled progressives at Netroots, having private sit downs with top bloggers and speaking on a panel about the foreclosure crisis, she was tight-lipped on whether she’s even talked with the White House about the job.
But she was filled with ideas, outlining for Netroots attendees her vision for the new bureau, according to CNN:
Specifically she pointed out this will be the first agency to be created in a wired world, and should create conditions whereby consumers and regulators can instantly talk to each other.
“The possibilities here are endless,” she said.
Warren also asked the audience to help shape the agency and to push ideas they have.
“I want to talk to people who have a voice, and that is why I came to talk to you,” she said. “I want to ask you to use your voice as a voice of conscience.”
Reviewing how often lobbyists had predicted they would be able to kill the new agency, Warren said there is a lesson in that for the future, as lobbyists will continue to try to limit its scope.
“We didn’t give up. We scratched and we built and we hung on,” she said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said during that panel he also wants to see her nominated. During the convention Warren was stopped for photographs with the liberal activists attending, and each time her name was mentioned from the podium the crowd of 2,300 cheered loudly.
An example of her popularity? TPM witnessed a worried Netroots attendee look at her watch and exclaimed to the Starbucks at the Rio, “Oh no! I missed the Warren panel!” Ads touting Warren as a candidate have helped progressives get to know her background better and sign petitions to Obama. But in an election year, a campaign from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn.org might go the way of the last major policy push they made — getting the public option into health care reform.