Senator: Consumer agency needs permanent director

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., dismissed the significance of a White House plan to appoint Elizabeth Warren to a job as an unconfirmed special adviser to a new consumer financial protection bureau, saying the Obama administration should quickly nominate a permanent director.

"They just need to send us a director, a nominee," Dodd said. "The issue is no different than it was [Wednesday]. We need a nominee that can be confirmed by the Senate to run the place ... the sooner the better."

Failure to do so puts the bureau "in some jeopardy," Dodd added. "Without it being established, it's vulnerable."

Dodd said he had expected the White House to nominate the Harvard law professor as head for the new bureau, but he believed they decided against it after going through "some anxiety" over that course.

Dodd has said he is unsure whether Warren could be confirmed as head of the agency, and Thursday he repeatedly urged the White House to name a confirmable director.

Dodd's comments left little room for the possibility -- urged by liberals such as Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. -- that Warren eventually receive the agency's top job. It was part of a tepid Senate reaction to the White House plan that included mixed reviews from Democrats and attacks from Banking Committee Republicans.

"It's outrageous that they would not bring her forward for confirmation," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a committee member. The head of the agency "is probably the single most powerful position that's been created in Washington since J. Edgar Hoover took over the FBI."

"This is an attempt by the administration once again to circumvent being responsible to the American public through the Congress," Gregg added.

In avoiding a Warren nomination, the White House sought to appease liberals clamoring for her appointment while avoiding a nomination fight and heeding moderate Democrats who are less supportive. As head of the Congressional Oversight Panel monitoring the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Warren has repeatedly ripped Treasury for its role in handling the crisis.

Dodd said he is not sure what Warren's temporary role, which Hill sources confirmed Wednesday, means in the longer run.

Both business lobbyists and consumer activists have privately said the White House has been ham-handed in its selection process for Warren.

But House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said he is "very pleased by" the White House plan.

"It's a very creative way to get the right person in the job. I'm very pleased with it," Frank said.

Frank said Warren would not have accepted the job if she did not have the full power to help structure the new bureau, even though she will be a special adviser to the Treasury Department. Warren has always indicated to him that she did not want to seek a long-term position in government, he added.

The director of the bureau would assume a five-year term. Other candidates for the job include Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Barr and Justice Department antitrust official Gene Kimmelman.

Bill Swindell contributed to this report.

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