Confusion Reigns On Warren Role At New Consumer Protection Bureau

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Conservatives are already calling her a banking “czar.” The Obama administration is suggesting that she’ll help “get the new federal agency standing.” But there’s still a great deal of confusion, both on the Hill and in the Obama administration about what Elizabeth Warren’s new role as consumer protection adviser will be. Will she be a de facto director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Or will her powers be limited and subservient to the Treasury Secretary? Nobody seems to know.

After a Senate vote today, three key Senators — including Warren supporters and detractors — admitted to not knowing what Warren’s new job will entail.

Asked by TPM whether he knew what Warren’s role will be, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd answered simply, “No.”Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — a strong Warren backer — is cautiously optimistic.

“That is a very good question,” Sanders said when TPM asked if he understood what Warren’s new job really is. “And the answer is no. And that is not insignificant.”

“The real question is: Will she be in a powerful position to protect consumers against Wall Street greed?” Sanders said. “And if she is, it will be probably the very best appointment that President Obama has made…but you’re right, the devil remains in the details.”

After calling Warren “the czar of all czars,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) acknowledged, in response to a question from TPM that he’s not sure what her authority will be.

“Maybe we ought to see,” Corker said. “It appears to me that exactly the things that many of us thought were going to happen have happened. We’ll see. Maybe there are some details here that we’re missing.”

Aides on the Hill are equally perplexed — unsure whether Warren will truly be running the show or simply advising the White House and the Treasury on the Bureau’s functioning until a full-time director is confirmed.

Looks like we’ll have to wait to see if Warren is given a great deal of discretion in her advisory role, and whether or not Obama officially nominates her to head the new Bureau.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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