In a conference call yesterday afternoon, Elizabeth Warren sidestepped the question of whether she’s running for the Senate seat from Massachusetts.
“I’ve been hard at work setting up this consumer agency, working 14-hour days,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I had a day off. My plans include taking my grandchildren to Legoland. That’s as far as I can see right now. I have to get back home to Massachusetts.”
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee seems to take that as a maybe, since they’re already sending out a Draft Elizabeth Warren email.
Warren said she supported President Obama’s choice of Robert Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“I don’t want to hurt this agency. That’s what matter most to me. If I’m drawing fire to the agency, that’s it. I want to do what works for the agency,” she said. “This is the White House strategy, and I’m 100 percent behind it.”
She said pointedly that “the people who are trying to prevent this agency are the Republicans. We wouldn’t have this agency if it wasn’t for this president. They like the old system, with seven different agencies for consumer protection, nobody responsible and accountable to the American people. I’m saving all the rocks in my pocket for Republicans.”
Warren said that having a nominee “frees us up to have a big political discussion, or, if you like, fight. We are now able to have a free and open discussion about this agency. The Republicans want that fight. We can now have that fight in a full and vigorous way, at high volume.”
She warned that Republicans are counting on the word about the new agency “not drifting back to their constituents at home” and asked bloggers to keep writing about it. “There are still very powerful Republican senators who think crippling this agency is important,” she said.
I asked if the new bureau would be addressing consumer arbitration, an area rife with abuse. “We have a responsibility to review the impact of arbitration. What I’ll say is, watch this space,” she said.
To a question about Sheila Bair’s recent statement about the size of the mortgage fraud problem, she responded, “I’ll stand with Sheila Bair on this one. She testified three weeks ago that we still don’t know the depth of the problem. I think that says it all. We don’t know. She said millions of mortgage could be affected by this? I have to agree with her.”
Saying “change comes from people pushing on many different pieces,” Warren was very positive about the potential for keep the CFPB accountable to the people.
“In the hiring, it’s been very important to me that two things happen simultaneously. We’re here to serve American families – not the banks, not Congress. We come to that position from a variety of backgrounds,” she said, citing the wide and varied expertise of the new agency employees.
“For instance, we’re not going to hire just one group of economists who all have the same view. That carries with it the risk of intellectual capture. We’ve increased the odds that we’ll stay on mission.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this,” she said.