Political Animal


July 18, 2011 9:20 AM The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s future

By Steve Benen

The bad news is, Elizabeth Warren has not been nominated to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The good news is, President Obama has nominated an excellent official, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray — and we probably haven’t heard the last of Warren.

Mr. Cordray came to national attention for his aggressive investigations of mortgage foreclosure practices while he was attorney general. He is already an employee of the watchdog agency, which starts formal operations on Thursday, as the leader of its enforcement division.

“Richard Cordray has spent his career advocating for middle-class families, from his tenure as Ohio’s attorney general to his most recent role as heading up the enforcement division at the C.F.P.B. and looking out for ordinary people in our financial system,” Mr. Obama said in a written statement.

Of course, choosing a strong nominee is encouraging — by backing Cordray, the president is clearly siding with consumers and their leading advocates — but the political realities on Capitol Hill remain ridiculous. Senate Republicans had vowed to kill Warren’s nomination under any circumstances, and the likelihood of finding 60 votes was effectively nonexistent. Obama could consider a recess appointment, but Republicans haven’t allowed any recesses to occur.

But the GOP’s problem wasn’t with Warren alone. The party believes the very existence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is outrageous.

To briefly recap, the CFPB is a pretty terrific idea. The whole point is to have a separate agency that would look out for our interests — banks and other financial institutions have had little oversight when it comes to consumer credit and fees, and the CFPB will exist to serve as our advocates. Warren has compared it to having a “cop on the beat.”

Republicans, as is their wont, intend to make it impossible for that cop to exist. They committed to blocking a vote on Warren, and it’s a certainty that Cordray will meet the same fate. With no director, the CFPB will not be able to exercise its full powers.

That said, Cordray is a fine choice, and quickly received Warren’s enthusiastic backing. If we can’t have her at this post, her enforcement deputy is the next best option. Cordray’s record in Ohio — featuring strict accountability for financial and insurance companies — offers hope for those who take consumer advocacy seriously.

As for Warren, there have been quite a few hints recently that the Harvard scholar is interested in running for the U.S. Senate next year, eyeing the race against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Democratic leaders have been urging her to run, and as of last week, Warren certainly seemed to be leaning in that direction.

If Warren runs and beats Brown next year, I wonder how much Senate Republicans will come to regret the decision to block her CFPB prospects?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


  • c u n d gulag on July 18, 2011 9:27 AM:

    Oh, Sweet Jesus, let her run against Brown!


    Can you imagine the debates?

    It'll be a battle of wit's.

    Brown will provide the half and nit, and Warren will provide the wit.

  • rikyrah on July 18, 2011 9:29 AM:

    he sounds like a good choice.

    and, I definitely hope Warren runs for the Senate.

  • KurtRex1453 on July 18, 2011 9:31 AM:

    you would think the Republicans would learn there are many more consumers who need protection than there are uber rich who need help fleecing consumers.

  • Chris Ekman on July 18, 2011 9:40 AM:

    "The [GOP] believes the very existence of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is outrageous... They committed to blocking a vote on Warren, and it�s a certainty that Cordray will meet the same fate."

    So, if it's not going to pacify the Republicans at all - which it isn't - what's the point of not nominating Warren?

  • Danp on July 18, 2011 9:43 AM:

    The Republicans will certainly block any nomination, so the good news is that Warren will be a much better candidate than Coakley was. I didn't care whether she knew baseball, but as a prosecutor, I thought she was as heartless and insincere as Dick Cheney.

  • SadOldVet on July 18, 2011 9:43 AM:

    If Warren runs and beats Brown next year, I wonder how much Senate Republicans will come to regret the decision to block her CFPB prospects.

    I hope that it is one hell of a lot!

  • Josef K on July 18, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Let's just hope there's a government left by then.

  • FRP on July 18, 2011 9:46 AM:

    The practicality of running a blog on the fulcrum of "if" is a a good solid one . The idea of government of the if , by the if , and for the if , seems , forgive me , iffy .
    I pledge allegiance to the if of the United States of America , and to the if for which it stands , one if under if , ifdivisible , with liberty , if , and justice for if .

    Just Kidding !

  • Save The Rich on July 18, 2011 9:47 AM:

    Republican actions prove that God is dead for conservatives. I would love to hear one of them expound on how he or she reconciles what one hears in Sunday churches with the actions one commits for the rest of the week? I bet it would be a very interesting and convoluted explanation with much "I believe I'm right" thrown in.

    atienta exemption

  • karen marie on July 18, 2011 9:52 AM:

    If Warren is as smart as everyone says, she won't run against Brown. She's not going to win. Brown has managed to keep himself free of teabagger taint, and it's hard to see Massachusetts voters giving him the toss for an unknown quantity.

    While Warren is familiar to those who follow politics closely, she has no profile in Massachusetts. I just don't see her winning.

  • DAY on July 18, 2011 9:53 AM:

    SadOldVet sez:
    If Warren runs and beats Brown next year, I wonder how much Senate Republicans will come to regret the decision to block her CFPB prospects.

    If I may repeat this old chestnut:

    "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

  • FRP on July 18, 2011 9:56 AM:

    Oh Fer Gawds Sake quit yer worries

    Wha hoppened when the very serious end of the worlders were disappointed wit de sunrise de next morning ?

    Well the adults in the party of if are also capable of great wha hoppenstance if need be .

    The Battle Cry of Lost battles is mothers milk to the heart of us all , and although conserastiffs have held swatting rights for a while , they are all deep in their little grey mildewed beating center a bunch of dim losers .
    Good Luck "Senator" dull brow Brown .
    Bye !

  • Rugosa on July 18, 2011 10:07 AM:

    karen marie - If the Democratic party gets behind Warren, she has a chance. Brown won mostly because he had the support of the national Republican party and raised a lot of money out-of-state. Coakley and the Dems ran a dismal campaign partly because they thought the election would be a slam dunk. I don't think they'll make that mistake again.

  • jim filyaw on July 18, 2011 10:19 AM:

    i don't subscribe to the right wing fantasy of ronald reagan being a cross between henry v and audie murphy, but dammit, he had the stomach for a fight. i'm beginning to wonder about obama. i remember when reagan nominated alexander haig as secretary of state, a lot of senators raised cane about haig's association with nixon. it looked like haig's goose was cooked until reagan threw down the gauntlet and said he'd fight for him. the senators turned tail. although haig turned to be a disaster as secretary of state, he at least got the chance, courtesy of reagan's guts. where is obama???

  • Peter C on July 18, 2011 10:27 AM:

    While I'm glad that Cordray seems a good choice, the thing about the situation that still rankles is that AGAIN the administration and our leaders in Congress are happy to ignore the wishes of the base. We still have no mechanism to make our thoughts known and to know, in turn, that we've been heard. Until they put some sort of feedback mechanism in place, we will feel pushed to the sidelines. It is aggravating that while our leaders display a willingness to cater to imaginary 'centrist voters' by accepting Republican frames and their Xeno-like rush to the Republican position through pre-emptive repeated attempts at 'meeting them half-way', all we hear from them is 'La, La, La, ... I'm not listening'.

  • Mimikatz on July 18, 2011 10:34 AM:

    If the Senate drags it's feet on confirming Cordray, does that mean Elizabeth Warren continues as interim head? If so, it might be a clever way of boosting his chances.

  • JW on July 18, 2011 10:53 AM:

    Another ridiculous political reality in Washington is the certainty that Barack Obama lacks the spine to make a recess appointment of an otherwise perfectly qualified person, and justify it in just those terms.

  • POed Lib on July 18, 2011 10:55 AM:

    Jeff Sessions was nominated for a judicial post (that he was and is obviously totally unqualified for, of course). He went on to run for and win a Senate seat, and is now a total pain in the butt in the Senate. Perhaps the Dems regret not getting him safely into a judgeship.

    Warren should be able to do the same.

  • FlipYrWhig on July 18, 2011 11:06 AM:

    @ JW: IIRC there are no recess appointments, because the Senate Republicans have used procedural tactics to prevent going into recess.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 18, 2011 1:07 PM:

    I really have no idea what Warren's prospects would be in a Senate campaign, but to write her off and just assume that Scott Brown is a shoo-in is absurd. It's Taxachusetts, after all, it's Ted Kennedy's old seat we're talking about, and there's going to be a much higher non-wingnut turnout for the presidential election.

    Besides, we don't know what all is going to between now and November 2012, but it's bound to be interesting. If the Republicans continue to act like a Gothic horde, and destroy the economy in the process, the 2012 election could be a bloodbath for them in all but the reddest states.