With Additional Reporting From Shahien Nasiripour
Two uniquely influential members of Congress announced their intention on Tuesday to push for Elizabeth Warren as the chair of the new consumer protection agency created under financial regulatory reform legislation.
House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass), one of the key authors of the reform bill, formally signed a letter being circulated among House Democrats vouching for Warren's qualifications for the post. The letter calls the Harvard professor -- who envisioned the consumer protection agency and has been the chief purveyor of the idea -- the "best person" to lead the new bureau and "the perfect choice."
Frank's support of Warren was already known. But his signature on the letter -- authored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) -- gives that effort a bit more weight.
A more symbolic Warren endorsement came elsewhere on Tuesday when Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) signed Maloney's letter and released a stand-alone statement explaining her support.
"Big banks and financial service companies spent the last decade telling us they could police themselves and what we got was the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression," said Kilroy. "The President must nominate Elizabeth Warren to the CFPB because we need aggressive regulators who are committed to protecting consumers from Wall Street excess."
An endangered freshmen Democrat whose re-election chances are very much in doubt, Kilroy's eagerness to align herself with the Warren cause underscores the extent to which the party views the nomination as a winning political issue.
Kilroy is far from a conservative member of the caucus. She backed the president's stimulus package, cap-and-trade legislation and health care reform (after much deliberation) -- all for which she has been relentlessly attacked.
But she's found solace and a campaign cause in contrasting her support for financial regulatory reform with her opponent's past as a bank lobbyist (on Wednesday Steve Stivers, who lost to Jo Kilroy in a remarkably close 2008 election, will host a fundraiser with financial services lobbyists). Supporting Warren helps solidify that contrast, an aide acknowledged, one that the congresswoman is hoping to demonstrate as prime evidence of her commitment to the regulatory reform cause.
The one possible trip-up, of course, would be if the Obama White House doesn't share the same enthusiasm for promoting Warren to the post. Though Frank and Kilroy certainly seem to be trying to force the president's hand.
HERE IS MALONEY'S LETTER:
More than a dozen House members have already signed the letter (listed below) with more expected to add their support in the coming days.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez
Rep. Lloyd Doggett
Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy
Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Gary Peters
Rep. Jackie Speier
Rep. Brad Sherman
Rep. Rosa DeLauro
Rep. Raul Grijalva
Rep. Nita Lowey
Rep. Barney Frank
Rep. Al Green
Rep. Lois Capps
Rep. John Olver
Rep. Maxine Waters