Top Republican cool on Warren for consumer agency head

The second-ranking Senate Republican on Tuesday appeared cool toward the possibility of Elizabeth Warren as the head of the new consumer protection agency. 

Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) — the Republican whip — told reporters after the weekly caucus luncheons that Warren’s tenure as head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), has been marked with “controversy.”

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”I don’t really have any comments about it except to say that it is an extraordinarily powerful position with an incredibly large budget and authority that is constrained by almost nothing,” he said. “And therefore the person who serves in that capacity is going to have to be trusted by everyone and it’s really critical that the person selected, I think, meet that very high standard.”

The White House and Senate Democrats have come under pressure from liberal activists to back Warren to head the consumer panel. Liberals believe that Warren, who has been tough on bailed-out financial firms, would be a staunch consumer advocate. 

Kyl, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, opposed the Wall Street reform bill that created the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. When pressed to say whether or not he thought Warren was too controversial, he refused to comment directly. 

Should Warren be named by the White House, they would need all Democrats and at least one Republican to invoke cloture on her nomination. Kyl’s comments are one of the first public statements Senate Republicans have given on Warren. 

In recent days, the White House has signaled it could nominate Warren. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs last week praised Warren and called her a “very confirmable” nominee.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who drafted much of the legislation, has praised Warren but has also raised doubts whether or not she can be confirmed.