By David Clarke
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Key Democratic lawmakers hope
to exploit the rare August return of the House of
Representatives to intensify pressure on the White House to
nominate Elizabeth Warren as head of the new consumer financial
Representative Carolyn Maloney and House Financial Services
Chairman Barney Frank are urging President Barack Obama to act
swiftly to nominate Warren -- who has alienated Wall Street and
Republicans in her role as a watchdog of the government's $700
billion bailout of the U.S. financial system.
Maloney, of New York, and Frank are trying to drum up more
signatures for their draft letter requesting a meeting with
Obama on the matter.
The White House said Obama has not made a decision yet on
who will become the powerful first chief of the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau, but one official on Monday called
Warren a "strong contender."
The issue has become one of the top guessing games on Wall
Street and in Washington.
The new agency will have broad powers to oversee a range of
consumer financial businesses, including mortgage lending,
payday loans and check cashing businesses.
Warren's allies, who include consumer advocates, top
professors and some well-placed lawmakers, say Warren has shown
she will cry foul when bank greed trumps consumer rights.
"You have an opportunity to appoint to head this body a
true visionary -- not the usual Washington practice of a
careerist," the lawmakers wrote in a draft letter that has been
circulating in Congress. "You have an opportunity to appoint to
this body the single best-qualified choice."
Administration officials have made clear that Wall Street
opposition would not prevent Obama from naming Warren if he
decided she was the best person for the job.
"Though the president has not yet made a final decision on
who will head the new consumer agency, he believes that
Elizabeth Warren is a champion for middle-class families and
consumers, and she is a strong contender for this position,"
White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.
White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters that an
announcement on the consumer job would not come this week, but
did not say when the decision would be made.
Sixteen House members have signed the letter from Maloney
and Frank, and its authors hope to gain additional names this
week when the House returns briefly from its August recess to
vote on aid for state governments, an aide to Maloney said
The letter will likely be sent to the president by the end
of the week. A similar letter sent last month was signed by 63
Warren, a Harvard University law professor, is credited
with conceiving the idea for the agency, which was created as
part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul law.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd has
raised questions about whether Warren can be confirmed by the
Senate and has urged the White House not to nominate someone
who does not have the votes.
The Treasury Department has already starting assembling the
The banking industry vigorously opposed its creation, as
did congressional Republicans, arguing its powers are too
sweeping and it could impose onerous regulations that would
Opponents of the agency have raised objections to Warren as
its head arguing she would be an activist and that she also
lacks the needed management experience.
She has strong support from several key Democrats as well
as from consumer groups and labor unions.
(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; editing by Leslie