The labor community is going to lend its considerable political clout to the effort to get Elizabeth Warren confirmed as the first head of the newly-created Consumer Protection Agency, going directly to the White House official who may stand in her way.
On Tuesday, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry will "raise the point that Elizabeth Warren would be an excellent head of the newly created Consumer Protection Agency" in private talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, according to a senior source with the union. The tete-a-tete adds an element of intrigue into the debate over who should head the new but important agency and could set up a now-familiar scenario in which the labor community finds itself butting heads with the White House's economic team.
Geithner has privately expressed skepticism with Warren's candidacy for the post -- despite the fact that she is considered the godmother of the very idea that consumers need a watchdog agency on their behalf. The Treasury Secretary is wary about the message that Warren's appointment would send to the financial community and would prefer to appoint Michael Barr, a senior Treasury Department official who was instrumental in crafting financial regulatory reform.
In public, the White House has insisted that it is open up to all candidacies, including Warren's. But Geithner's private musings have spurred an intense pushback.
In addition to Kay Henry's visit to Treasury, another major union, the AFL-CIO, has directly lobbied the White House on Warren's behalf, according to a source with the union federation. Meanwhile, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal activist group, has colleted roughly 140,000 signatures in a petition drive urging the White House to nominate Warren for the new post.
Warren, it should be noted, could assume the post by executive appointment under the newly passed regulatory reform law. This would allow her to avoid a bitter confirmation fight in which she would need the support of 60 Senators in order to make it through the Senate.
UPDATE: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Tuesday morning on regulatory reform and Warren's candidacy:
The AFL-CIO applauds the passage of the Wall Street Accountability Act and looks forward to the creation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - which has the potential to be a powerful and independent voice for consumers.
In our view, there is only one candidate who is uniquely qualified and equipped to head this new agency. Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren originated the idea of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has proven as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel to be a strong and fearless advocate for the American public. We therefore strongly urge President Obama to appoint Professor Warren as Director of the new consumer protection bureau. Professor Warren's appointment would make clear that under President Obama's leadership, there truly will be accountability for Wall Street and fair treatment for the American public in the financial marketplace.
FURTHER UPDATE: The SEIU has now put up a blog post on its website touting Warren for the post.
Warren has spent her entire career fighting for the interests of working families and supporting policies to help rebuild our middle class. In fact, Warren even came up with the concept of a new consumer watchdog. As head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she'll work each and every day to stand up to Wall Street and demand commonsense financial products that will protect us from the next economic meltdown.