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ABC: Obama to sorta kinda appoint Warren

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Elizabeth Warren

For weeks government regulatory geeks have been waiting with baited breath to see whether President Obama would formally nominate Elizabeth Warren to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sidestep the highly contentious nomination process and give her a limited recess appointment, or duck the conflict altogether and choose someone else. According to ABC’s Jake Tapper, the answer is … none of the above.

Tapper says Warren will be the — deep breath — Assistant to the President and Special Adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Basically, she’ll be a White House adviser, reporting to both Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, charged with setting up the new bureau. It remains to be seen exactly what this means. Salon’s Andrew Leonard sounds baffled over whether this pseudo-appointment would give Warren some actual power, or just make her one more adviser with no real authority.

Cue conservative carping on yet another czar and liberal griping about Obama’s ducking of political fights over their pet issues in 3 … 2 … 1 …

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Slate: Warren all but nominated to head new bureau

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Elizabeth Warren

Slate’s Timothy Noah last night reported that Elizabeth Warren’s nomination to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a done deal. The real question, Noah says, is whether President Obama will send her through the normal Senate confirmation process — where she is sure to face hostility from conservatives who think she’s an anti-Wall Street radical — or install her with a recess appointment.

Warren could get tied up in the normal nomination procedures, with partisanship running extremely hot these days and even Democrats like Chris Dodd doubting her chances of confirmation. But a recess appointment would only give her a year or so at the job — far shorter than the five years she’d get through a regular confirmation, and hardly enough time to get anything done.

Noah also points out that Warren’s never managed anything close to this new bureau, and because of that we can’t even know how effective of a manager she might be. And one of Noah’s sources on Warren also appears to be a master of understatement when asked about the Harvard law professor’s style:

Does she know how to schmooze a grumpy Republican? “I wouldn’t call her schmoozy.”

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Reading the tea leaves on Elizabeth Warren

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Elizabeth Warren

The Washington Post’s Political Economy blog today reported that Elizabeth Warren — the left’s hands-down favorite to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — has unexpectedly dropped a fall class she was scheduled to teach at Harvard.

This last-minute change for Warren’s contracting law class is fueling speculation that she could be nominated soon, and is gearing up for what could be a grueling confirmation battle. (Long story short, liberals love her and think she’d stand up to banks running amok; conservatives view her as a zealot who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.)

The Post said that even when Warren was heading a congressional panel overseeing the TARP bailout, she found time to keep teaching. And Andrew Leonard at Salon’s How the World Works blog notes that Warren has been seen recently at the White House and dining with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. “So something is up,” Leonard wrote.

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The Elizabeth Warren rap

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Elizabeth Warren thinks there's two types of people in this world. Those who write regulations on banks and credit unions with more than $10 billion in assets, and those who enforce them. You enforce them.

You know what comes to my mind when I think of Elizabeth Warren, the left’s favorite to be the first director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Rap music. And Sergio Leone-esque spaghetti westerns.

So you can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon this video, from the consumer protection group Main Street Brigade, which is a strong supporter of Warren and Obama’s financial reform efforts. “Got a New Sheriff” combines rapping, auto-tuned lyrics, and Ennio Morricone-inspired whistling, resulting in something that’s … er … unique, to say the least. Unless I’m sorely mistaken, this is the first rap song ever made backing the appointment of a federal official. (Although Don Rumsfeld’s press conferences-slash-poems were set to music back in 2004.)

Still no word from the White House on whether the controversial Warren will get the nod to head the agency that is largely her brainchild. The WaPo last week had a profile on her that’s got some good background, but kind of gives short shrift to the debate over her qualifications.

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H/t: Salon’s How the World Works

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Is Treasury avoiding the TARP watchdogs?

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Elizabeth Warren, the chair of the congressional TARP oversight panel, thinks so. She told the Senate Finance committee this morning that Treasury refuses to articulate even its most basic goals for the TARP program:

We do not seem to be a priority for the Treasury Department… What we’re asking for is not rocket science here. We’re not asking for something extraordinary… we’re asking for the much broader articulation of what the plan is, transparency in the goals and the execution and strategy… we need Treasury’s commitment.

I’m doing some reporting on financial regulation this week, and Warren’s complaint is becoming a common refrain. The TARP program is probably helping banks. Some are using TARP money to increase their lending; others are using it to boost their capital reserves; still others are repaying debts. All of those are good outcomes for banks.

But does Treasury consider that a success for the TARP program? Warren says the department hasn’t defined its goals; so do some of my sources, and some members of Congress, like Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine:

My [constituents] don’t see the program working as-is. The credit markets are still tight… and what I hear is that there are no specific standards for oversight… no clearly-articulated goal.

On a related note, if you’re interested in this sort of thing, here’s the GAO’s latest report on the TARP program. (It’s 100 pages — a little light bedtime reading?)

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