Senate Republicans are loath to confirm consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to the directorship of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because of their concerns that she might effectively prevent ordinary Americans from being preyed upon by predatory lenders and shady credit card merchants. And so the Obama administration is sort of stuck: Either they make a recess appointment or they find an alternative.
Paced by a hot scoop from Bloomberg's Carter Dougherty, Robert Schmidt and Mike Dorning, everyone everywhere is talking about what's behind curtain number two:
President Barack Obama is considering nominating Raj Date, a former banker with Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) and Deutsche Bank AG, as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a person briefed on the process.
Date is already at the consumer bureau, working as a top deputy to Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration adviser who is setting up the new agency. He is on a short list of candidates to become director, the person said.
Date's nomination could be a way for the Obama administration to tamp down political controversy over the leadership of the consumer agency, which is one of the centerpieces of Dodd-Frank. Warren could urge her supporters to endorse his nomination, and his industry experience has been praised by banks that would fall under the bureau's oversight.
Yes, apparently one essential thing that any candidate for this job would apparently have to have is a friendly disposition toward banks, which are some strange underpinnings for an agency that's sincerely concerned with consumer protection to have. Is that truly what Date brings to the table? Some source for Politico's "Morning Money" newsletter seems to have several simultaneous opinions about the matter!
And as one person close to the matter described it to M.M.: "In theory, an elegant solution. Progressives happy because EW loves Raj and they love whomever EW loves. Banks view Raj as an upgrade from EW because he worked on Wall Street and won't become a media darling, thorn-in-their side. ...
"That's theory. Reality, of course, more complicated. Left reluctant to trade Raj for EW just as Bulls fans wouldn't take Pippen for Jordan. And banks may view Raj as more threatening version of EW because he knows just enough to be dangerous. In theory, she's OK with this idea but who knows what she really thinks."
So, theory and reality have some pretty dramatic intersections. But it appears to be true that while progressives like Date, they really do have that whole "like Pippen for Jordan" mentality on losing Warren. As David Dayen points out, Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future (CAF) has "come out strongly against a Date appointment":
This trial balloon won't get off the ground. Every consumer activist, every informed citizen, an army of commentators, bloggers, organizers and opinion leaders will be simply outraged if Elizabeth Warren is not nominated to head the bureau that she conceived, championed and constructed.
The Warren test cannot be ducked. If the president names someone else, he gets the worst of both worlds. The Republicans will still block the nomination, demanding that the bureau be neutered. And the White House will be savaged across the progressive community for demonstrating once more that it caters far more to bankers than to the customers who are too often their victims.
It really is simple. Name the best person to the job. Take on the fight. Help Americans understand who is on their side. No excuses. No dodges. There are no acceptable alternatives. Elizabeth Warren has demonstrated her leadership, her independence, her loyalty. This is not a hard test.
This isn't anything personal against Date in his current role, which CAF previously supported with glowing blog post. But Dayen says that, while "Date would be a good CFPB Director" (though Warren "would be better"), "[c]alling Date an 'ex-banker', as Bloomberg did in its report, is pretty misleading." The "Warren Test," for all intents and purposes, is a test of President Barack Obama's cojones.
Historically, Obama has been fairly conflict averse, and with the debt-ceiling pageant raging all around him (and drawing a ridiculous amount of media coverage, compared to past instances in which the debt ceiling became "newsy"), we've reached one of those moments where the White House tends to back away from additional partisan sparring.
With an election year fight over standing up for the financial well-being of ordinary American consumers, however, this is just the fight the White House should be seeking! Especially since the GOP won't allow Date to be confirmed, either.