Progressive groups launched an online petition calling for the Administration to make a recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the CFPB. Not surprisingly, it gained traction quickly, and now has 158,000 signatures (the initial goal, as reported by Housing Wire, was 175,000; it was apparently increased based on the sign up rate).
This weekend is theoretically a window for a recess appointment (note that the lengthy Senate confirmation process makes it impossible for anyone to be in place by the Dodd Frank start date of July 21, so a recess appointment looks to be inevitable). But there’s no reason to use this opportunity given a Senate July 4-10 break.
I urge readers to sign the petition while maintaining my view that Warren will not get the nod. The Administration has been casting about for Anybody But Warren to take the job, with the amusing result than many of the candidates saying that Warren should get the job. Warren’s stubborn refusal to take the Republican’s aggressive moves and the Administration’s obvious antipathy seriously is creating marvelous political theater. We’ve now had the spectacle of Geithner, whose bank-coddling stance makes him an ideological opponent of the Harvard professor, being forced to support her in public in the face of ham-handed attacks by Republican Senators this week.
So far, the Administration has been able to neuter critics on the left by getting nominally liberal organizations defunded if they don’t toe the party line. They started with smaller groups early on to demonstrate the costs of defiance and I have been told of much large, more established groups coming into the Administration’s crosshairs as part of its pre-2012 brush-clearing. Warren, who has profile and standing independent of any progressive institutional infrastructure, is outside their normal mechanism of disciplining the uncooperative. And she refuses to do a Brooksley Born and quietly slink away under fire.
Now admittedly Warren has not crossed swords with the powers that be in as direct a manner as Born. She’s kept her head down and played a cautious bureaucratic game, despite her frontal manner in hearings. And if I am proven wrong and she does get the nod, it will be because she has convinced the Administration that she will behave. She may believe that half a loaf is better than none, and that CFPB measures to improve disclosures and make it easier for consumers to comparison shop and file complaints will be hard for the banks to block and will do more to protect consumers than Team Obama might think. So I’m more comfortable with Warren losing the appointment but discomfiting the Administration than with her making whatever pact with the devil she’d have to enter into to win the CFPB job.
Update 2:00 AM: Reader propertius points out that the Senate has scheduled “pro forma” sessions to keep the Senate officially in session and block a recess appointment over the one-week holiday. As we noted, we didn’t expect Obama to try to appoint Warren this weekend, and this maneuver does provide Obama with a convenient out. The question is whether anyone on the left will be imaginative enough to make the Republicans look as craven as they are in pretending to be open for business to derail a single tough-minded woman. Details from The Hill:
GOP opposition is preventing the Senate from completely adjourning for the Memorial Day recess. Instead, the chamber will come in for three pro-forma sessions over the next ten days.
The cursory sessions are a formality that will ensure President Obama does not make recess appointments, a prospect that was considered unlikely anyway because the recess is scheduled for only a week….
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) applauded the GOP action to ensure recess appointments would not take place.
“President Obama has been packing federal agencies with left-wing ideologues, but thankfully he won’t be able to for at least the next week. The House will not be sending an adjournment resolution to the Senate, we will remain in pro forma session, and no controversial nominees will be allowed to circumvent the confirmation process during the break,” DeMint said.