Tales from the Trail

As for Elizabeth Warren? Barney Frank says: “Let’s fight!”

RTXQB96_Comp1-150x150Is 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 RTR2JB5X_Comp-150x150bankers and their friends in Congress by pushing hard for consumer protection in the financial sphere.

Washington Extra -Soothing business, suing business

President Barack Obama had some soothing words for business leaders at the White House today, telling them that, despite some impressions to the contrary, he was really on their side after all. Financial regulatory reform was necessary, but “it is important now that there is a period of healing and consolidation and implementation that is less disruptive.”

Presumably the head of American Express was not invited to the meeting, on the day that the Justice Department decided to sue the company, saying its rules preventing merchants from encouraging consumers to use cheaper, rival cards violate antitrust law.amex It is the latest salvo in the administration’s battle with credit card companies, who it accuses of scalping consumers. Amex typically charges higher fees to merchants than rival cards, with the justification that its clients are richer and spend more.

Advocates of the government’s action say credit cards cost significantly more in the United States than abroad, and tough measures are required to open up the market and protect consumers. But the American Bankers Association expressed some valid doubts that merchants would actually pass on any savings from the Justice Department’s action to those consumers.

Elizabeth Warren’s rap video

Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is among a handful of candidates President Barack Obama is considering to become the first chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some ardent supporters clearly think the Harvard law professor (and chief of a panel monitoring the government’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system)  is up for the task of heading the independent agency created under the  financial reform bill signed into law last month.

A group called The Main Street Brigade, which supported creating the consumer agency, really wants Warren to be the boss.  The group has taken its case to YouTube  in a western-themed music video,  “Elizabeth Warren Rap Video – Got a new Sheriff.”

The new consumer financial protection agency will regulate a range of consumer financial businesses from mortgage lending to payday loans and check cashing businesses. Its mission — to protect ordinary borrowers from abuses by lenders.

Snowe says “yes” to Wall St. bill

The decision is in….snowe2

Senator Olympia Snowe has ended the suspense, announcing that she will support the financial regulatory reform bill.

Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine,  joined fellow Republicans Scott Brown and Susan Collins – the other senator from Maine — in saying “yes” to the measure that most in their party strongly oppose.

Their backing leaves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democrats just one vote shy of the 60 needed for the measure to advance.

Will she or won’t she?

USAThe suspense continues…

All eyes are on Senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine, who has not yet decided on how she will vote on financial regulatory reform.

Snowe’s could be the crucial 60th vote after Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown said on Monday that he will support the bill.

On Saturday Snowe said she hadn’t decided and that the most important thing was “to get it right.” Her view had not changed so far today, a staffer tells me.

Obama tries to make political mountain out of ant hill

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are trying to make political hay out of a comment by House Republican leader John Boehner that managed to mention ants and nuclear weapons in the same sentence.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boehner  criticized the financial regulatory reform legislation making its way through Congress as an overreaction to the financial crisis. “This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon,” he said.

ANTSDemocrats couldn’t resist pouncing on it. Especially since they are struggling to come up with the votes to pass the landmark legislation through the Senate where 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber are required to overcome procedural hurdles.

Driving Mr. Summers on financial regulation reform, G20

USA-SUMMERS/Larry Summers, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, is a realist when he says “people are imperfect and we have not seen the last misjudgment.”

So,  in his view, financial regulatory reform is just as necessary as, well, laws aimed at ensuring safe driving.

He cites the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s belief that people being people are probably going to drive fast and recklessly, and so it would be wise to encourage seat-belt use, build crash-proof bumpers, design highways more carefully, arrest people for drunk driving, and establish a system that made accidents less likely to result from human error.

Latest Washington technique? Bipartisanship by sniping?

If bipartisanship is what they’re after … they’ve got a funny way of showing it.

Financial regulation reform is the latest struggle on Capitol Hill between the forces of Democrats and Republicans. And while everyone seems to be calling for bipartisanship, the words they’re using are quite simply snippy.

President Barack Obama had congressional leaders from both parties over to the White House today to chat about his goal of  financial regulatory reform to prevent another markets meltdown. USA/

The First Draft: should Obama embrace new structural reforms?

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs are two guys who think President Barack Obama better embrace new structural reforms if he wants a growing economy that isn’t hard-wired to go bust.

Dodd, a Democrat fighting for his political life at home, proposed sweeping regulatory legislation this week that would curb the Federal Reserve’s bank oversight powers, strengthen consumer protection and keep a sharp eye out for systemic problems like housing or stock market bubbles.

The 1,136-page measure reflects Obama’s policies in some ways — for example, it supports the White House call for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency — but it also charts new regulatory waters.

“What we have (now) is a hodgepodge that has grown over the last 80 years, some of it dating to the 19th century and early 20th century regulatory structures,” Dodd told MSNBC.

The First Draft: After the crash, pushing for financial reform

President Barack Obama tries to revive his push for financial reform on Monday.The president heads to Wall Street on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers to try to make his case for stricter regulatory oversight of U.S. markets.OBAMA/He’ll also be discussing how he plans to wind up government involvement in the financial sector.The federal government took large stakes in banks and other firms over the past year as it tried to stabilize the economy in the midst of recession and financial collapse.Obama’s financial reform effort has hit resistance in Congress, as has his bid for an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.A new poll in The Washington Post on Monday showed public opposition to Obama’s healthcare reform is high but could ease a little if the president dropped his bid for a government-run public health plan to compete with private insurers.Obama argues a public plan is needed to ensure private insurers face enough competition to force them to control costs.The late Senator Edward Kennedy’s memoir “True Compass” is out on Monday and his sons, Representative Patrick Kennedy and Ted Kennedy Jr., spoke with the morning shows about their father and his book.Patrick Kennedy recalled the first time he became aware of the constant threats his father faced.KENNEDY/“On the campaign trail in 1980, I remember one time I was with my dad and someone took one of the (campaign) buttons … They took the pin out and they jammed his hand when he came by,” Kennedy said.”I remember the Secret Service after the event were wondering whether he’d gotten poisoned because they didn’t know it was a button he’d gotten stuck with. It was the first time that I remember ever feeling that this was something that was a daily part of his life that he had to worry about.”Patrick Kennedy said the book, completed over the past year as his father struggled with the cancer that killed him, was a revelation to him.”Everybody knows my dad wasn’t the most sentimental, emotive guy,” he said. “For us this was an enormous revelation, in a sense, because this book really was one where he talked about his feelings and emotions at various points in his life.”For more Reuters political news, click here.Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama meets with economic team in March); Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (People line up to sign condolence book at Kennedy’s Senate office after his death in August)