Sidestepping a Senate confirmation battle, President Obama last week named former Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren to an advisory position in which she will organize a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The aggressive consumer advocate, 61, won praise from liberals as head of the watchdog panel overseeing the $700 billion bank bailout, but Republicans view her as anti-business and would try to block her nomination as the agency’s director. Republican Sen. James Inhofe said Obama was deliberately circumventing the Senate confirmation process, and called Warren “a czar, unaccountable to Congress and ultimately the people.” With hundreds of employees and a $500 million budget, the consumer protection agency will write and enforce rules governing mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products.
A bankruptcy expert and outspoken consumer champion, Warren “could hardly be more qualified,” said The Boston Globe in an editorial. In fact, it’s just these qualifications that unnerve Republicans. They fear she’ll be “too ardent about protecting consumers from rapacious mortgage writers and credit card companies.”
If she’s so great, why not let her “run the gauntlet of Senate approval?” said Bruce Ackerman in The Wall Street Journal. Instead, President Obama has done an end run around the Constitution by naming her a “special assistant,” thereby depriving the Senate of giving advice and consent on her appointment. During his campaign, Obama railed against “the excesses of the Bush White House.” But that was then. Now, he’s busy making his own contributions to the “imperial presidency.”
Well, Obama certainly made “an innovative job offer to Warren,” said Andrew Leonard in Salon.com. While liberals are thrilled to see her temporarily lead the agency, Obama is kidding himself if he thinks opposition to Warren will fade, enabling him to appoint her as the agency’s director next year. After November, the number of Republicans on Capitol Hill will increase. It’ll be even tougher for Warren to win confirmation next year than it is now.