White House may help Elizabeth Warren bypass Senate confirmation

Rachel Rose Hartman
Elizabeth Warren conducts a 2009 TARP hearing.
Elizabeth Warren conducts a 2009 TARP hearing.

If the president decides to appoint Harvard Law's Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she's likely to face a steep hurdle in the Senate, whose members would probably grill her over her long history of antagonizing banking and credit card issuers. But President Obama may be deciding to sidestep that hurdle, and may well proceed with the Warren pick the same way that other presidents have handled past appointees likely to make political trouble: by going over the Senate's head with a recess appointment.

As Cheyenne Hopkins of American Banker and additional news sources have reported, Warren would, in this scenario, be named the "interim" head of the agency, and therefore spared hostile scrutiny in the Senate as part of the standard confirmation process.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Ct.) warned previously that Warren may not have the Senate support to win confirmation.

Though the White House and Warren's advisers have not openly confirmed that Warren is the nominee, her status as the White House's pick seems all but official. Warren now heads the congressional oversight panel tasked with overseeing the bank bailout, and is credited with the very idea for a Consumer Protection Bureau. Congress created the agency this year as part of the financial reform law, with the mission of protecting consumers against predatory banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies and other financial institutions.

Should Warren move into the top spot courtesy of a recess appointment, though, don't look for any controversy to subside. Dodd told Bloomberg News that an interim appointment "will be met with a lot of opposition."

(Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert)