Elizabeth Warren to get a role in consumer agency

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- President Obama plans to name Elizabeth Warren as a presidential assistant and special adviser to the Treasury Secretary this week to help lay the groundwork for the new consumer financial protection bureau, sources tell CNN.

The move would allow the president to lean on Warren to help set up the new consumer agency while bypassing a potentially difficult Senate confirmation battle that could occur if she were formally named to run it.

Warren, 61, is a Harvard University law professor who came up with the original idea for the consumer financial protection agency, which is why she has long been considered a leading candidate to run the new regulatory bureau.

The Treasury Department is the agency charged with creating the new consumer agency to be housed inside the Federal Reserve, as a part of the Wall Street reform law passed over the summer.

Warren would report directly to the president and the Treasury Secretary, a senior administration official and a Democratic official told CNN.

That could be an interesting dynamic, as Warren has penned reports critical of Treasury's handling of bailout programs in her current job as chair of a watchdog group that monitors spending at the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Warren would not have been willing to accept the job had she not had assurances from the White House that it would be robust with autonomy, a source close to Warren said.

Reports earlier this week that the White House was considering naming her as the interim director of the agency spurred pushback among some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The latest objection came from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Wednesday. Many senators do not want the White House to circumvent a confirmation process.

The new consumer bureau will be charged with regulating mortgages and credit cards with an eye toward helping consumers. And the question of who will ultimately be the agency's first director remains unanswered.

Warren could still be appointed. "This (appointment) does not take the place of nominating a director of the CFPB and Warren will participate in the selection process," the senior Democratic official told CNN.

Other candidates include Michael Barr, Assistant Treasury Secretary for Financial Institutions, as well as Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gene Kimmelman.

"Even though it may disappoint the so-called left, there may be others who can do this job effectively," said Reid Cramer, director of asset building at the New America Foundation, a left-leaning think tank "Michael Barr, for example, has been working the inside game effectively while Warren has been the public face."

-- CNN's Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report. To top of page

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