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Kai Ryssdal: The big financial reform package has been law for a couple of months now. But one of the key jobs in that whole thing is still vacant. The Obama Administration can’t quite figure out who it wants to run the powerful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A White House spokesman said today the president will decide soon and that Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren is “in the mix.” It’s not clear though that Warren could be approved by the Senate. So the Obama Administration is floating the idea of appointing her temporarily to get things up and running.
Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports.
John Dimsdale: The Treasury Dept. has been hiring staff and setting up new offices, but so far, all without a director. Elizabeth Warren is very popular with consumer advocates and unions, but not with some lawmakers or bankers who say she’s never worked in their industry and doesn’t understand it.
John Douglas is a former lawyer for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He says if Warren is appointed without a Senate say-so, that could undermine financial reform.
John Douglas: The risk you run is, do you constantly have senators or others carping at rules or positions that might be taken with the argument that whoever it is that is leading the charge might not have gone through the proper political vetting and approval process?
Besides, says James Barth, author of “The Great Savings and Loan Debacle,” the confirmation process is a good way to build support for the reforms, and find out how someone without any regulatory experience, like Warren, would shape the rules.
James Barth: If she is the right person for that particular position, then why not let all members of the Senate ask her questions and see what she has to say? Perhaps the public will rally around her.
Still, Senate confirmation has its own risks. Given the strong political opposition to the consumer agency itself, John Douglas isn’t sure anyone could be approved.
Douglas: Maybe Mother Teresa. But Mother Teresa is no longer with us, so I suspect she would even attract a few negative votes as well.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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