September 17th, 2010
09:31 AM ET
12 years ago

'Hell to pay' if Elizabeth Warren isn't in charge

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" A White House official says the administration expects Warren's role at Treasury to last for months not years."]

(CNN) - As President Obama is poised to name consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to a new role, progressive groups are issuing a warning: they want her to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and nothing less.

"It's still completely on the table that she'd be given a permanent appointment, and if the Wall Street types in the White House tried to stab her in the back and give someone else that role, there'd be hell to pay with progressives," says Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "That would be a really stupid move right as the president gears up his own re-election."

Green's group helped organize a campaign pressuring the White House to nominate Warren for the top job at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she initially proposed. Warren is beloved by progressive groups who see her as a fierce advocate for "regular Americans" and a worthy opponent for Wall Street.

After a string of disappointments with the White House, a number of progressive groups – who believe they were crucial to the President's election – have taken up Warren's cause with determination.

What the White House is doing today falls short of the progressives wish. In her new role at Treasury, Warren will be empowered to design and set up the new agency – not run it. A White House official says the administration expects Warren's role at Treasury to last for months not years.

This official explains once the agency is open for business, Warren can't lead it from her new post at Treasury. Instead, the official insists, Warren will play "a pivotal role" in determining who the president nominates for that top job.

Reading between the lines, don't expect the White House to nominate her.

Some progressive activists, who won't speak on the record for fear of antagonizing the White House right before Warren's announcement, privately tell CNN they see this appointment as the administration's way to give Warren the power, while avoiding a drawn out confirmation battle. One key activist tells CNN, if the White House nominates someone else to the post progressives "will be pissed."

In a statement to CNN Ilyse Houge of is optimistic: "As a very senior advisor to the President on a wide swath of economic issues Elizabeth Warren will have enormous power and influence and most importantly consumers will have a strong advocate at the decision making table."

PCCC's Adam Green is hopeful as well. Says Green: "The fact is that Warren will functionally have the keys to the new bureau for it's opening months, giving her immense opportunity to craft it the right way." But he suggests there could be a political strategy here saying this appointment "is giving President Obama a brief honeymoon on this issue with progressives through the election."

In fact there's pressure on the White House to nominate a permanent director even before the midterm election – and it's coming from a Democrat. Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, for whom the financial reform legislation is a piece of his final legacy before leaving the Senate, is pressing for the White House to nominate a director in the next few weeks so it's clear the president isn't trying to backdoor Warren into the job.

The White House says it will take months to nominate a director.

Sound messy? The White House official insists this is the best way to ensure Warren "plays a central role" at a "pivotal time for the new agency." The source adds, "The alternative is going through many months if not more than a year-long battle which the president is happy to have. But that would put her on the sidelines and silence her" for the duration of the fight.

This source says in the new role Warren will lead the effort to organize the new agency, including recruiting staff and overseeing policy initiatives.

Some activists say they have so much faith in Elizabeth Warren they're confident she wouldn't take this role if it weren't meaningful. It's possible these supporters will be mollified if Warren picks someone else to run the agency and assures groups it's the best choice.

But they realize there is a possibility the White House is merely postponing a confrontation over this issue.

In part, Green blames Sen. Dodd. In a biting rebuke Green insists, "The White House is being coy about Warren's role to appease a senator...who sees screwing consumers as his golden opportunity to get a high-paying job on Wall Street."

And so the lines are drawn.

Filed under: Chris Dodd • Elizabeth Warren • President Obama
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Lucas Breen

    She is amazing. Americans don't really appreciate what she has done.

    September 17, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. Democants

    Why do all democrat woman look like men? Is that how that got into the hand out party because the could not get the QB in HS or like most the head cheerleader. She is another proffesor who could not make it with the big boys in the private sector. If you cant do teacher or be a reporter.

    September 17, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. Orlando Patriot

    I love watching Liberals implode:)!! For the FIRST time in MANY years Democrats have had COMPLETE control of the Congress and the administration and initiated EVERYTHING they EVER desired!! So how is that "Hope and Change" working out for you now? Is there anything else this administration could do to make this economy and country worse off than they have already caused? Probably but the people have wised up and Democrats only have a few more months to throw this economy and country completely over the cliff..... Seeing Progressives say that they want that LAST socialist policy initiated before Democrats lose the House (and possibly Senate) is scary but know that the people finally realize the danger of Progressives and it will all stop very very soon.......

    September 17, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  4. Drunken GOP Drivers want the keys back

    Shes the real deal.Even Demos fear the new lawwoman in town,hahaha

    September 17, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
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