White House press secretary Robert Gibbs defended President Obama's decision to name Elizabeth Warren as overseer of the creation of the new consumer protection agency, but did not rule her out to run it once it's off the ground.
Gibbs said the creation of the agency could have been delayed for months because Republicans would have likely blocked her nomination if she had been named director. He also denied talk that her appointment as special adviser to the agency circumvented the law.
"There's no circumventing the law in any way of this," Gibbs added, explaining that "the task of setting up and standing up that function rests in the law with the Treasury. Elizabeth Warren is an adviser to the secretary of Treasury to do exactly that."
But several comments Gibbs made indicated she is unlikely to get the job. After it was pointed out that Warren, a Harvard Law professor, has said she was not interested in being permanent director, Gibbs said "if she said she's not interested in it, then there's your answer."
He also said that Warren would "help the president find new leadership" and that her focus is to "get started on the very critical work of standing this up."
Liberal lawmakers and activists had pressured the White House to appoint Warren to lead the agency, the idea for which she helped develop.
But Republican opposition to her cast doubt on the prospect of her receiving 60 votes for confirmation by the Senate. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) repeatedly voiced those concerns and this week pressured the White House to appoint a permanent director, following reports of Warren's new position.
Gibbs acknowledged that her appointment as special adviser was done in part because of Republican opposition.
"Anybody that gets nominated, it takes months and months and months to be involved in getting this agency standing up," he said. "Republicans in the Senate have virtually ground to a halt" about 200 Obama nominees.
"Nobody was going to be confirmed any time soon," Gibbs added, saying that the permanent director will receive Senate confirmation. "This made perfect sense."