WASHINGTON -- Representative Barney Frank said today that he expects President Obama to bypass Congress and do a recess appointment to install the director of the new consumer protection agency for financial products.
The prediction follows a threat from Senate Republicans last week that they will block the confirmation of any director unless several measures to limit the agency's power are instituted.
Frank said such measures would allow Republicans to cripple the agency's power to protect consumers and possibly defund it altogether, eliminating one of the cornerstones of the financial regulation overhaul law passed last year. He said they were "acting like thugs" and forcing Obama to bypass the confirmation process.
"I think what they've done, frankly, is free the president now to pay them no attention," Frank said. "Once they have announced that they're not going to confirm anybody, then what do they expect him to do?"
Forty-four senators signed a letter to President Obama last week asking that the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau be run by a panel rather than a single director, be overseen more strictly by banking regulators, and have its budget subject to Congressional approval. Currently the agency, set to open on July 21, is funded through the Federal Reserve.
White House officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
One of the leading candidates for the post has been Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, whom Obama tapped as a special assistant last year to oversee the setting up of the agency. White House officials at the time did not appoint her director because they said they didn't believe she could win confirmation in the Senate.
Frank spearheaded passage of the financial regulation overhaul, the most sweeping since the Great Depression, but has been trying to beat back attempts to water it down since Republicans took control of the US House of Representatives in January.
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About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.