The gathering of online and progressive activists at the Netroots Nation convention this year has produced a fairly overt and direct campaign to get Elizabeth Warren appointed as the first head of the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Of the speakers addressing the recently passed regulatory reform bill, nearly every one has said the Harvard professor is best suited to head the board that she originally conceived. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, for example, called Warren the only choice to head the consumer agency.
Since this remains a political appointment, such advocacy matters only to the extent that it influences the president, the man who will ultimately make the choice, as well as the Senate, the body who will likely have to vote on Warren's candidacy. On the latter front, Warren's defenders got a bit of a boost on Saturday, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) making a forceful case for her appointment and disclosing that he's been lobbying the administration on this front
"I support Elizabeth Warren," the Oregon Democrat said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "I have advocated for the administration to back her. She has both the clarity of the need for an agency that has as its top mission protecting citizens against tricks, traps and scams, and she has the ability to articulate that vision. She has the leadership skills and the knowledge of the financial world. She has the full set of requirements to be an effective leader. So I certainly hope the administration will [take my advice]."
With an appointment to the consumer board coming, in all likelihood, in the near future, Merkley's endorsement is one of the first publicly offered by a sitting Senator. Indeed, there has been as much concern raised over Warren's confirmation prospects as there has been advocacy on her behalf. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said recently that he wasn't sure if Warren would get the 60 votes necessary for confirmation.
For Merkley, the case for Warren is not just about the individual attributes she'd bring to the post, but also the various shortcomings of the just-passed regulatory reform legislation. A leading proponent of stricter rules to clamp down on the financial services industry, Merkley acknowledged feeling trepidation that the final legislative product left too much power to the judgment of the regulators. Having a strong advocate in a key post, in short, had become a vital ingredient to the legislation's success. Warren, he said, would be that type of regulator.