White House officials on Wednesday insisted that they are satisfied with congressional action on regulatory reform legislation and disputed a Huffington Post report on Tuesday that they had threatened to veto a bill if its consumer-protection provisions were too weak.
"The White House has been working closely with [House Financial Services Committee] Chairman [Barney] Frank and [Senate Banking Committee] Chairman [Chris] Dodd for months on creating a strong and balanced consumer financial protection agency and we are confident the bill will streamline government, protect consumers, and provide a level playing field for responsible service providers," said spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki.
In recent days, Frank has pared down the White House version of the CFPA. The new version would not cover telecommunications companies or real estate brokerages or have the power to require financial institutions to offer "plain vanilla" products and services. In light of these changes, several economic observers had called on the president to demonstrate, once more, his commitment to passing a wide-reaching and strong CFPA - something that Psaki said the White House is committed to doing.
The administration, she said, would push back "against outside groups opposed to a Consumer Financial Protection Agency... [it's a] fight we are happy to have."
The remarks from Psaki came less than 24 hours after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs appeared to offer a more skeptical take on the status of the CFPA.
Asked during Tuesday's briefing if "the White House [was] concerned at all" about the paring down of the reform proposal, Gibbs replied: "This is a big concern of the President's and a big concern of the administration." This seemed to be a comment about the moves by Frank. But the White House insisted that Gibbs was simply stressing the president's commitment to the CFPA.
The Huffington Post also asked Gibbs on Tuesday if the president was "willing not to sign a bill if he thinks it's too weak?" To which Gibbs replied: "The President would not sign any bill that he thought was too weak."
Gibbs went on to stress his confidence that the president would sign a bill into law when all the compromising and horse-trading was done.
With the bill itself still far from passage, a veto is of course a remote hypothetical.
But Gibbs' remarks seemed to be enough of a warning shot at Congress that another reporter at the Tuesday briefing felt compelled to follow up. "Is that a veto threat?" the reporter asked. "Will he veto a bill that doesn't include [a strong CFPA]?"