Felix Salmon

Why it makes no sense for Warren to leave

By Felix Salmon
June 1, 2011

The U.S. Congress only has two choices. It can raise the debt ceiling, or it can abolish the debt ceiling. The latter option isn’t realistic, sadly. Which means that the debt ceiling is going to be raised. Yet somehow the House of Representatives contrived today to vote 318-97 against raising the ceiling, in an idiotic political stunt which makes all 318 Nay votes look like complete morons. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill, while the Democrats were pretty evenly divided between the sane and the bonkers; even the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel voted nay.

Faced with a Congress of such monumental doltishness, what is the White House to do? It can stick to its guns and try to put in place the very best policies for America that it can. Or it can randomly detonate various such policies, even if doing so would achieve precisely nothing, on some kind of inchoate principle that the occasional public sacrifice might somehow mollify an unknown number of lamebrained legislators.

That seems to be the philosophy of Bill Cohan, who has decided that Elizabeth Warren must resign from the nascent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on the grounds that Congress won’t confirm her. But Cohan’s argument doesn’t even make internal sense:

The inconvenient truth facing Elizabeth Warren, the controversial Harvard Law School professor President Obama would like to run the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is that she has made herself so bloody disagreeable on Capitol Hill that she has obliterated her chance of winning the Senate votes she needs to be confirmed…

In the Senate — the body that actually confirms appointees — Warren is faring little better. In early May, 44 Republican senators sent the president a letter saying they would oppose any nominee of either party to head the bureau until “the lack of accountability in the structure” of it is “reformed.”…

This reeks of a political ploy by the Republican senators to gut an agency despised by their financial backers on Wall Street.

By Cohan’s own account, then, any nominee would face exactly the same fate as Warren — even a Republican. It’s the bureau that these senators don’t like, and they’re not going to confirm anybody to run it unless and until they also get the authority to hobble it. Throwing Warren to the sharks would just give them a taste for blood, and make them even more optimistic about their chances of getting exactly what they want.

Cohan says that the Warren nomination fight “is not a fight that Obama can win”. But it’s the first principle of any game that you don’t give something up without getting something in return — especially when your opponent is crazy. Unless and until the Republicans show Obama a way that he can get a nominee approved in line with Dodd-Frank’s vision for the agency, it’s a no-brainer that Warren must stay. Otherwise Obama would just be sacrificing a great public servant for no purpose at all.

8 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“Unless and until the Republicans show Obama a way that he can get a nominee approved in line with Dodd-Frank’s vision for the agency, it’s a no-brainer that Warren must stay. Otherwise Obama would just be sacrificing a great public servant for no purpose at all.”

The fact that Warren is a doctrinaire leftist doesn’t enter into this?

Posted by RJonsson | Report as abusive

Warren is a savvy centrist who has been walking her talk… so not something Republican likes at all…

In wishing to [finally] protect the middle class from being scammed and pillaged, and standing her ground for consumer rights, she is called a doctrinaire leftist?

Does the right think it unbecoming of a woman to be so tough minded, focused and verbose without backing down and kowtowing? Or, is it simply because you get more funds raised if you balk at backing a person who is hated by wall street?

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

On that clean debt-ceiling vote…Democrats quite frankly had the perfect opportunity to pin the entire debt ceiling mess on Republicans, but they chickened out. They thought that the GOP’s plan – to show that Democrats aren’t concerned about the debt and deficits – would bear heavily in 2012 elections.

Never mind of course, the GOP plan cuts one way or the other. After all, they actually believe their rhetoric that the debt ceiling will have little or no consequence, and that cutting spending = growth.

Kick Steny Hoyer out…that was bad strategy and it puts Democrats in the spot of having to defend their vacillating opinion.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive

Government regulation – to a Republican – means putting the Fox (pun intended) in charge of guarding the hen house.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive

Hang on. Representatives voted against raising the ceiling because those whom they represent demanded they do so. They need to be able to point to their voting record in their next primary and electoral contests. So who are the dolts again? America has exactly the government that it deserves.

Posted by Greycap | Report as abusive

These Congressmean and Senators are like pigs at a trough wanting to cut supplies to the rest of the farm just so they can keep on gorging themselves silly by remaining at their exclusive trough even longer.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

The only person that the Republicans would confirm for the CFPB would be a person who believes that the consumer doesn’t need protection.

Most of the Democrats would like the same person as the Republicans since that would ensure that the banks would continue flowing money into their campaign chests.

At some point the financial Humpty-Dumpty will be fall over-weighted with so much greed that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men won’t be able to put it back together again, unlike after 2008-2009. I wonder what the world will look like after that event. Our politicans of both parties are failing miserably to look beyond their own next election campaign. We are a giant nation being managed by mental midgets.

Posted by ErnieD | Report as abusive

Think we’ve become a nation that is managed on stealing everything that’s not nailed down. Liz Warren represents a tough nail, that will require a pry bar to loosen.
It’s not mental midgitry, more a case of”why would anyone stop whats made so many millionaires”.. when wealth is the only measure in a society.
All participants are locked into the merry-go-round.

Posted by Chivelry | Report as abusive

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