White House signals its support for Warren

The White House on Monday gave the strongest signal yet that it may pick Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE to head a new consumer bureau created by the Wall Street reform bill.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday said Warren is “very confirmable” for a position in charge of the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).


Gibbs dismissed criticism that Warren — the chairwoman of a congressional panel overseeing the 2008 Wall Street bailout — is not well-qualified to run the bureau, which was created by the Wall Street overhaul bill President Obama signed last week.

“I think Elizabeth Warren is a terrific candidate,” Gibbs said at his daily press briefing. “And I think she’s very confirmable for this job.”

The White House is under heavy pressure from the left to nominate Warren. Liberal activists and a number of Democrats in Congress believe putting her in charge of the new office would give it real authority in fighting excesses and abuses in the financial services industry. 

The left has been disappointed with the Obama administration on a number of issues, and nominating Warren could boost the White House ahead of the November midterm elections.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) have both offered strong praise for Warren, who first pushed for the creation of the consumer agency.

On MSNBC last week, Frank strongly urged the president to nominate Warren, arguing that unlike the difficulty of winning votes for other economic and healthcare policies, “no one can stop” the president from nominating Warren.

Frank defended Obama against liberal criticisms that his domestic policies have not been strong enough, but suggested criticism from the left would be justified if Warren was not his nominee to lead the new consumer protection office.

“And I would say to the president — look, I sympathize with President Obama. He’s been criticized by some of my liberal friends. We didn’t get a public option and we didn’t get the other things we wanted. That wasn’t his fault,” Frank said.

“The economic recovery bill, the stimulus — it wasn’t as big as it should have been. That wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t get the votes. But with regard to appointing Elizabeth Warren, that’s his decision. No one can stop him from making it. And I hope he will appoint her.”

Geithner in an interview with ABC News on Sunday described Warren as “probably the most effective advocate for reform for consumers, for consumer protection, in the country.”

Geithner and Warren have clashed in the past over the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, but the Treasury secretary said he didn’t have any concerns about her being in charge of the consumer office.

There are serious doubts over whether Warren could win the 60 votes necessary to be confirmed by the Senate.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) threw some cold water on Warren’s candidacy by suggesting this would be difficult.

Most Senate Republicans have expressed opposition to Warren’s potential nomination. The three Senate Republicans who supported the financial regulatory bill have yet to say if they would vote to confirm Warren.