WASHINGTON -- Forget the buzz about Elizabeth Warren running for Senate. Progressives still want her to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she's helping to create, and they want President Obama to appoint her while the Senate is out and can't object.
A coalition of progressive groups launched an online petition Wednesday. They say they've already gotten more than 150,000 signatures urging Obama to put Warren in charge of the new consumer bureau while the Senate is on recess.
A recess appointment would circumvent the Senate confirmation process -- which Republicans have vowed to block -- but would only be a temporary assignment ending in 2012.
"Since Republican senators said they wouldn't confirm anyone that the President nominates, he has no choice but to make a recess appointment," said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "So we're showing him that there's broad public support for Elizabeth Warren. She has consistently shown, including in the House hearings this week, that she's the best qualified candidate for the job."
Some of the groups, which are important to the President's base, are also appealing to him directly.
"Consumers want Elizabeth Warren to get the job," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, whose separate petition has another 20,000 signatures. "After the financial meltdown of 2008, we do not trust Wall Street to watch themselves. The government did not have the tools it needed to prevent the damage to Americans. A strong consumer-oriented bureau will help protect Americans from getting taken advantage of by Wall Street executives."
The White House gave no sign that the entreaties were changing its thinking.
"The President is considering a number of candidates for this position and we will not speculate on potential candidates or timing until the President nominates someone," said White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki. "He is focused on picking the very best person to lead the agency tasked with enforcing the strongest consumer protections in history."
Such an appointment for the Harvard professor, however, would take her out of the running for challenging Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown -- a contest where Democrats are desperately seeking a high-octane candidate.
A source familiar with efforts to woo Warren for that race confirmed they were ongoing but noted she had not signed on. Her office has been adamant that she is only paying attention to standing up the CFPB.
"Elizabeth Warren is 100 percent focused on building the new consumer agency," Warren spokeswoman Jennifer Howard repeated Thursday.
If Warren jumped into the Senate race, several Democratic observers said it would be beneficial on several fronts. It could head off a distracting fight with conservatives who passionately oppose Warren, while giving Democrats a better chance against Brown. It would also relieve the fears of many high-powered Democratic donors on Wall Street, who might otherwise wind up in Warren's crosshairs, the Democrats said.
With Republicans already expected to tap billions of dollars in unregulated independent spending in 2012, Democrats may need their Wall Street allies to jump into the fray enthusiastically.
"It would be a win-win-win," said one Democratic observer, who nevertheless would like to see Warren get the consumer protection job. "She's terrific. I can see why Wall Street wouldn't want her."
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