GOP, Warren antagonism boils over

GOP, Warren antagonism boils over

The tension simmering between Republicans and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE, the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), burst into the open Tuesday in a nasty public exchange between Warren and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).

Warren, a Harvard professor hand-picked by President Obama to set up the new bureau, and whom some Democrats hope will run in 2012 against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), was angered after McHenry, who chaired the hearing of a House Oversight subcommittee, requested she stay for additional questions. Warren said she had been told she could leave after an hour. 

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McHenry maintained no such arrangement was made, which set off a round of bickering between the two in the packed hearing room.

“That was never the pledge,” said McHenry.

In response, Warren accused Republicans of making repeated changes to the schedule late into the previous day.

“Congressman, when you asked to change the time four times in the last 12 hours, including waking people up at home last night to change the time again ... ” she began.

McHenry interrupted, saying, “Let me be direct with you: I never made a single phone call about this.

“I never heard you had to leave at 2:15,” he added.

“Congressman, you might want to have a conversation with your staff,” Warren responded.

McHenry then refused to recess the hearing as members left for votes, maintaining that GOP staff never promised Warren she would be free to leave after an hour, and would merely try to accommodate the request.

“I’m not trying to cause you problems, Miss Warren,” he said.

“Congressman, you are causing problems,” she responded. “We had an agreement. ... I committed to you based on representations of your staff.”

“You had no agreement,” responded McHenry.

“We had an agreement,” she rebutted.

“You’re making this up, Miss Warren,” said McHenry.

At that point, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the full committee, interjected.

“Mr. Chairman, you just did something that — I’m trying to be cordial here — but you just accused the lady of lying,” he said.

Warren then offered to respond to the remaining questions in writing, so they could be entered into the public record.

McHenry agreed to allow Warren to do so, and permitted her to depart from the hearing as the panel recessed.

However, he issued a statement after the hearing blasting her for a “blatant sense of entitlement.”

“She was apparently under the assumption that she could dictate a one-hour time limit for her testimony to Congress and that we were there at her behest instead of the other way around,” he said. “This is just further example of her disregard for congressional oversight.”

Her appearance before the subcommittee on TARP and Financial Services came on the heels of a New York Times report that Democrats were trying to recruit Warren to run against Brown in 2012.

Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of The Cook Political Report, said people near Warren have advocated her candidacy for some time, but only in the last few weeks have those talks reached her.

“She, I don’t think, has talked to anybody about it until very recently,” Duffy said.

After the hearing, Warren declined to comment on a potential Senate bid, saying she was focused on establishing the CFPB.

“I’m working 14 hours a day on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” she told The Hill. “I don’t have that many brain cells.”

The potential pursuit of a Warren candidacy presents a unique situation, given that many of her advocates are simultaneously pushing hard to have her fill another position — the first permanent director of the CFPB.

Senate Republicans announced earlier this month that they would block the confirmation of any nominee to head the agency until several changes were made to it. That promise of a blockade led Warren backers — including consumer groups and some House Democrats — to call on the White House to name her to the spot in a recess appointment.

At this point, no other names have publicly emerged as viable candidates, as attention has centered around Warren, who has served as the de facto face of the agency in this transitional period.

The president is expected to name a nominee to head the bureau sometime before July, when the CFPB is scheduled to begin work.

Her testy exchange with McHenry came at the end of a hearing that saw several spirited exchanges between Republicans and Warren.

Republicans have long been critical of the CFPB, arguing it is too powerful and lacks proper congressional oversight. McHenry said Tuesday the bureau will have “virtually unchecked discretion” to regulate financial products as “a powerful instrument in the hands of progressive regulators.”

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He opened by asking Warren if she would accept a recess appointment from the president to be CFPB director.

Warren avoided answering the question, instead saying it would be up to the president and that it would not be “appropriate for anyone to speculate.”

While she added that she tried to help the president in the nomination process, she declined to say whether she had recommended anyone else for the position.

McHenry also pressed Warren on how involved CFPB officials have been in ongoing settlement talks with mortgage servicers over widespread documentation problems — a previous point of contention between the two parties.

Warren told the House Financial Services Committee in March that the CFPB has offered advice to other agencies engaged in the talks. But Republicans contend that a confidential CFPB presentation that came to light after her testimony indicated the CFPB played a greater role than she indicated.

McHenry said the presentation, which suggested a $5 billion penalty would be too low, “raises concerns about the veracity of her testimony.”

Warren maintained she was accurate in her previous statements and that CFPB officials have “proudly and enthusiastically” offered advice.

Democrats attending the hearing worked to defend Warren.

Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Kentucky Democrat: McConnell's agenda driven by 'power without a purpose' Top Democrat: Getting Trump off the ballot wouldn't benefit party MORE (D-Ky.) accused McHenry of engaging in “rude and disrespectful behavior.”

“This hearing is all about impugning you because people are afraid of you,” he said.

And Cummings offered Warren spirited backing.

“I’m begging you, I’m begging you to keep the fight up,” he said. “We need you. We really desperately need your passion, your concern.”