Now that the White House has decided not to nominate Elizabeth Warren to run the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she’s taking her fight to protect the new agency directly to Republicans. And she says the time has come either for President Obama to recess appoint his designated director, or to engage in a loud, public fight with the GOP senators who have vowed to block the confirmation of any nominee, regardless of ideology or affiliation.
On a conference call with reporters and bloggers Monday evening, Warren described the impasse Republicans have erected as an opportunity.
“We now have a nominee, and that actually frees us up a lot to have a big political discussion, or if need be fight,” Warren said in response to a question from TPM. “A year ago we had a fight about whether to have this agency at all, and if we were going to have it whether to make it a strong, independent agency or a weak lame thing that wasn’t going to get anything done. The Republicans, they lost that fight, and now they want to turn around and see if they can fight it again. They want to embrace the system that failed. And my view is we can now have that fight and we can have it in a full and vigorous way. We can have it at high volume.”
I followed up to ask whether taking the fight public is a preferable option to Obama’s recess appointment powers. She approved of that option, but cautioned that the agency’s supporters would have to remain vigilant against continued GOP attempts to dismantle or weaken it.
“If we can get somebody in, I think that’s great. It’s good for the agency. The agency’s then able to then pick up the rest of its tools and that’s a win,” Warren said. “There are still very powerful Republican Senators who believe they can take the position that crippling this agency is good for Americas consumers. So the fight will not be over.”
The CFPB was created as part of the year-old Wall Street reform bill. Over broad GOP opposition, it was given wide latitude to regulate financial products and protect consumers from predatory merchants. It will operate independently but be housed within the Federal Reserve. Several weeks ago, 44 Republicans — enough to sustain a filibuster — signed a letter vowing to block any nominee to lead the bureau unless the White House agreed to statutory changes that would dramatically undermine its mission.
On Monday, the White House formally nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to be the Bureau’s first director. Republicans have been quick to remind observers that their filibuster threat still stands. In the past, they’ve hinted that they might take steps to block Obama from making a recess appointment if they suspect he might want to avoid a political fight.
Warren says she’s prepared either way — and that Republican Senators are wrong if they think their constituents won’t get wind of their position.
Warren says she’s going to make sure she exposes that position in the negative light she believes it deserves to be seen. “I’m saving all the rocks in my pocket for the Republicans,” she said.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.