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What kind of power will Warren have?

Elizabeth Warren

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: In a couple of hours, President Obama will make it official. Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor, will oversee the creation of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection granted in the financial reform law. There are still questions about how much power Warren will have. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer is with us live from our Washington studio. Good morning, Nancy.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Why the confusion over how much power she'll have?

MARSHALL GENZER: The confusion is caused because President Obama isn't going to formally appoint Warren as director of the new bureau. That would require approval from the Senate, and at this point, there just aren't enough votes in the Senate to confirm her. Now a lot of Republicans are leery of Warren because she's a very outspoken critic of Wall Street. So, the president is expected to make Warren an assistant to him, and to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

CHIOTAKIS: So how much power, then, Nancy, will Warren actually have? What will she be able to do?

MARSHALL GENZER: Well, lawyers here in Washington -- and there are plenty of them -- are busy trying to figure that out. And Warren, by the way, was a law professor at Harvard. All the lawyers are pouring over a section of the law that says the Treasury Department will run the bureau while the nomination of a director is pending. And it says the "director may prescribe rules and issue orders and guidance." So, it's not clear whether Warren will have the authority to write the rules needed to implement the new law. I talked about this with Ed Mierzwinski. He's a consumer advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research group. He says all of the debate over Warren's powers is irrelevant, because she's so close to the president.

ED MIERZWINSKI: She has the power of President Obama sitting right next to her. And that is power that we cannot measure. When Professor Warren wants something done, she'll ask the president. Very few people can go directly to the president.

Now Steve, President Obama is expected to formally announce his appointment of Elizabeth Warren [shortly].

CHIOTAKIS: All right. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer in Washington, thanks.

MARSHALL GENZER: You're welcome.

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