WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Barack Obama looks for someone to head a new consumer protection bureau, he could name Elizabeth Warren, the popular but polarizing consumer advocate, on an interim basis, a move that would allow her to avoid a potentially contentious Senate confirmation hearing.
However, officials at the White House cautioned that no decision on a nominee has been made, and they wouldn't say whether Obama had settled on a plan that would allow his choice to bypass confirmation.
Two people briefed on the appointment process told The New York Times that the White House was exploring ways Warren could run the bureau without having to endure confirmation hearings. Though Warren is a favorite of consumer advocates and labor groups, she has little support within the financial community and her nomination could set the stage for a divisive confirmation.
The financial regulatory bill Obama signed into law earlier this year created a consumer protection agency that will have vast powers to enforce regulations covering mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. The law also included a provision that would allow the president to appoint an interim agency head that would not be subject to congressional approval.
The process of forming the agency is already under way, led by officials from the Treasury Department.
Warren long has been considered a front-runner to lead the agency. She currently heads the Congressional Oversight Panel, which has been a watchdog over the Treasury Department's bank bailout fund.
Last month, she met with senior administration officials to discuss the role and had a White House meeting with the president last week.
On Friday, Obama praised Warren as a "dear friend" who has been, "a tremendous advocate" for the establishment of a consumer protection bureau. But he said that while he has had conversations with Warren over the past several months, he wasn't ready to make an official announcement.
Others mentioned as contenders to lead the consumer agency are Michael Barr, an assistant treasury secretary who was a key architect of the administration's financial regulatory plans, and Eugene Kimmelman, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's antitrust division.
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