Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama Facing Democratic Pressure on Warren Appointment

Since the Republicans have made it clear that they will block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a group of House Democrats is putting the pressure on President Obama to recess-appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the agency she herself created. Rep Barney Frank (D-MA) was blunt: it's now or never. Not only is the Senate minority vowing a fight, the House Republicans are attempting to defund and disempower the agency.  So Obama must make the choice of either caving to Republican extortion or appointing Warren during the Senate recess the first week in June. Under the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law, a permanent appointment must be made by a July deadline.

Here's the text of the letter to Obama, now being circulated in the House for signatures:

May 18, 2011
Dear Mr. President,
We appreciate your leadership last year in supporting the strong financial reforms in the Dodd-Frank bill that responded to the financial meltdown on Wall Street that led to the worst recession since the Depression.
A key element of that effort was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with the goals of making prices clear, risks clear, making financial markets work for families and particularly protecting service members and their families from abusive financial practices. Since you appointed Professor Warren to "stand up" the bureau, she has laid the foundation as a strong advocate for consumers--something that seems to strike fear among those who are opposed to reform.
Regretfully, Republicans in the Senate have now made it clear that they oppose reform. They have vowed that they will not allow consideration of any nominee to head the CFPB until the bureau is weakened. They would rather hold your appointment hostage and obstruct the process than make sure consumers have a strong advocate on their side.
Since Republican Senators have said that no one is acceptable unless the law is weakened, we would urge you to nominate Professor Warren as the CFPB's first Director anyway. If Republicans in the Senate indeed refuse to consider her, we request that you use your constitutional authority to make her a recess appointment. We can think of no better person to be the first Director of this incredibly important consumer financial protection regulator.

The letter was written by Carolyn Maloney of New York, Ralph Ellison of Minnesota and Brad Miller of North Carolina.  The White House, which has been less than enthusiastic about Warren, has declined comment.

 Warren herself is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday. According to The Hill blog, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said Thursday he had not seen the draft of the Obama letter, but said he had no problem with the president using a recess appointment to name Warren as director.

“Not only no problem, but what’s the alternative?” he said.

Obama is in a squeeze play. He has had a year to make up his mind. His time is up. 


Kate Madison said...

If Obama makes Elizabeth Warren head of the CFPB in a recess appointment and tells Netanyahu that we are going to keep pushing for a sensible Israeli/Palestinian peace treaty--AND if he tells Bibi to take his hubris and shove it where the sun don't shine--then I think more than a few progressives will "friend" him again.

I am trying not to be hopeful. But I am waiting!

John said...

With the playing field sharply tilted in favor of Big Money and its managers, there is little left to grab onto to keep the rest of us, eventually, from sliding into varying degrees of impoverishment. It's like waking up in a hopeless passage of a Dickens novel. Real income for most Americans began to slip steadily after 1980. With the wipeout of savings and jobs from Great Recession of 2008 things are moving downhill just a little bit faster.

One of the last protections left to us as we slip and slide and try to recover our economic balance is the CFPB.

President Obama's actions on the CFPB between now the July deadline must be seen as a litmus test for voters in the 2012 presidential election. Will the President support the legislation as is, or go along with its dilution by Republicans and pseudo Democrats? Will Obama secure Elizabeth Warren's back -- or not -- as his nominee endures Congressional vetting? It makes me nervous that, in the words of Ryan Lizza, Obama believes in "leading from behind."

By all means, let's deluge Congress and the White House on Warren's behalf. She's one of the few government officials average Americans can believe in for a level playing field in the market place. And let's remember the steps to defeat if she loses, especially when our resentments might later be 'there-there'd" with soothing reminders about pragmatism and the need for compromise and the moral need to choose the lesser of two evils. How many betrayals can we swallow before being properly labeled as 'stupid'?

As far as I'm concerned, Warren's appointment is one more litmus test, perhaps a decisive one, that will determine which lever I pull in November 2012. If not the CFPB ... WHAT? If we can't get this CFPB crumb of protection, just how low will we go in our plea of "More, please, Sir" to the White House, while Wall Street continues to gorge on the cake we taxpayers paid for with you-know-who's help?

Jay - Ottawa

John said...

Now you're talkin', Kate. Folks like me, smack dab in the middle of Golden Pond, don't know much about those 'friending' rituals in Facebook World; but I'm with you where you go even further than I in drawing a not-friend line in the sand with Obama. If he wants me to get friendly with him again in the voting booth in 2012, I've got to see (1) Elizabeth Warren empowered in a CFPB with muscle and (2) those Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have turned the hoped-for Palestinian state into a piece of Swiss cheese, must be removed to the other side of the 1967 borders. This very week Obama said the 1967 borders were his ideal for a fair shake for the Palestinians. Let's see how far he aligns his administration's actions (money, arms, diplomacy, UN vetoes) with his words there, too. Go ahead, Mr President, make me 'friend' you.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Yes, I too, consider this the last chance I am willing to give Obama. If he doesn't appoint Warren - who is clearly ethical, has the brains to do the job right and has the persona to attract bright, like-minded people to work along, beside her - is he deserving of my vote? I really thought the Bush tax breaks were my last straw but I find I am willing to give Obama one more chance - not because he deserves it but because I have such respect for Ms Warren.

Obama needs to draw a line in the sand and show which side he is on. His detractors point out how cozy he is with the banking industry. If he doesn’t appoint Elizabeth Warren he is proving it.

But he needs to take it even further than a recess appointment. Obama needs to defend the agency against the Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee who are doing their level best to disempower the agency and deprive it of its independence and power to regulate the banking industry effectively.

While the possible Supreme Court appointments weigh heavily on me, I don’t think I can let this one go. If Obama doesn’t throw me this bone, I don’t know that I can give him my vote in the next election.

Janet Camp said...

I fourth the motion--and by the way--what on earth is holding him back, anyway? I guess the same thing that kept him from even mentioning all of us tens of thousands here in Wisconsin that marched on Madison for well over a month. I guess the same thing that made him appoint people like Alan Simpson or Jeffrey Immelt, Tim Geithner. I guess the same thing that made him forget all about how important he once said the Public Option was. I guess the same thing that made him extend the war in Afghanistan.
I guess the same thing that has kept him from closing Gitmo.

Shall I go on?--I'm pretty sure I've left a few things out.