As for Elizabeth Warren? Barney Frank says: “Let’s fight!”
Is President Obama up for a Senate confirmation fight over Elizabeth Warren? Maybe not right now. But that’s just the sort of rhetorical rumble Barney Frank would like to see.
The former Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who co-authored the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Warren might survive a confirmation battle.
His reasoning? “This is not just the left and the right. The Republican Party is united against healthcare and united against the environment. They’re not united against financial reform.”
Even more to the point: “The Tea Party people didn’t send people to Washington to defend derivatives. I think the fight over Elizabeth Warren would be worth having and I’m not sure how all the Republican senators would vote.”
Warren, of course, is the outspoken, bespectacled Harvard law professor who has struck fear in the hearts of bankers and their friends in Congress by pushing hard for consumer protection in the financial sphere.
Obama put her in charge of setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But he has not named her to head the operation, a post that would require confirmation in the Senate, where Democrats retain a slim majority. For now, she serves as a special advisor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
The confirmation fight Frank envisions sounds a bit like a fantasy match — a fantasy particularly for him, given that he sits in the House of Representatives and not the Senate.
The ever-perspicacious Massachusetts lawmaker realizes Obama is not likely to pick a partisan fight in Congress as the president undertakes the delicate task of finding bipartisan balance on tender issues like the budget and the debt ceiling.
But Frank still wishes the president would show the sword: “I think the president is too unwilling to make the kind of fights that don’t necessarily win. And I’m not sure she couldn’t be (confirmed). She’s an enormously popular, very thoughtful woman.”
Last week, House Republicans hammered away at Warren over the scope of the U.S. consumer watchdog agency’s authorty and budget autonomy. Some Warren allies say the GOP is at war against Warren. As the argument goes, having warned about the debt crisis before it happened, Warren is a threat to Republican antiregulation objectives.
Frank sums up the Warren situation in pragmatic-sounding terms: “Here’s what they say — You can’t have a consumer advocate who’s separate from the bank regulators because she won’t put the safety and soundess of the banks first. Precisely, the objection is that her focus is on consumer protection and the other regulators are mostly focused on protecting the banks.”
Reuters Photo Credits: Jonathan Ernst (Barney Frank); Kevin Lamarque (Elizabeth Warren); Joshua Roberts (Barack Obama)
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