Jonathan Cohn

Barney Frank: Not Appointing Elizabeth Warren Would Be A "Big Political Mistake"


Last week, while talking to Representative Barney Frank about more general subjects, I asked him, as I was leaving, whether he thought it was important for the Obama administration to appoint Elizabeth Warren as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is what he said:

It is very important. I think they would make a big political mistake [by not appointing her]. I have defended them that they didn’t get any better results with Congress. Why didn’t they get a public option? I agreed with their justification that they did the best they could. But that will fail if they don’t appoint Elizabeth Warren because that will be their own internal problem. ...

Now, she has been somewhat critical of Geithner, but, as one administration official pointed out, that shouldn’t stop us. Our secretary of state is Hillary Clinton. She was more critical of Barack Obama than Elizabeth Warren ever was of Tim Geithner. I think a failure to appoint her would be a serious political problem for them because it will say that hey, you didn’t have the votes for the stimulus or the votes for the public option, but you didn’t have to ask anybody’s permission to appoint Elizabeth Warren. ...

Well, they say, she won’t be confirmed. The answer is that, in the first place, it’s bad enough when they have a filibuster that they should be able to succeed by threatening an anticipatory one. I don’t think they would be well-served by filibustering Elizabeth Warren. She’s popular. She is the anti-TARP. I would make them do it [appoint her], and if worse came to worse, and they blocked her, you put someone else in. If they don’t appoint her, there will be some validity to the left criticism [of the Obama administration].

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