Elizabeth Warren banks on a plum assignment

The financial industry spent millions trying to defeat Elizabeth Warren, but throwing money at Scott Brown didn’t work out so well. In a classic case of instant karma getting Wall Street, the person who should have been head of the new federal consumer financial protection agency is almost assured of a seat on the Senate Banking Committee, which writes the legislation affecting the financial industry. Not only that, but the consumer agency falls under the purview of the banking committee.

Since Warren’s election to the Senate, the news media ginned up the story that dark forces were angling to keep her off the banking committee.  Calls for her to appointment to the committee (the choice is up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who puts the vote to the Democratic caucus) began to pile up, and the liberal group Move.org raised funds to lobby for a spot on the panel for her, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

Industry insiders insist that the controversy has been overblown. “The committee perch gives her a microphone, but she has a microphone anyway,” an industry official told Politico. “Nobody I’ve heard of is taking any steps to use whatever little capital they have with Senate leadership to keep her off — nobody I’ve heard of.”

The claim becomes even more nonsensical considering that Wall Street interests would be better served by lobbying for one of their own, say JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, to take over from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner when he leaves the Obama Cabinet.

An interesting test for Warren is already on the table. President Obama installed Richard Cordray, the current Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, via a recess appointment that expires at the end of 2013.  Still in a snit about the agency, Senate Republicans had insisted on creating a commission to oversee it before agreeing to confirm Cordray. Thwarted by the GOP the first time, Cordray is apparently gun shy about a second Senate confirmation battle.

If Warren promised “blood and teeth on the floor” in her fight to establish the watchdog agency, how many bones she would she be willing to break to secure a permanent director?  Or might Warren just confound everyone by taking a page out of the Hillary Clinton playbook, as the National Journal recently noted, and work quietly behind the scenes to identify a person who can get confirmed?

                                                                                –GABRIELLE GURLEY


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