Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Obama: Consumer Protection Agency a Must

Gibbs just confirmed this in his press briefing today -- a consumer protection agency is non-negotiable. Obama met with Chris Dodd yesterday:
While administration officials declined to discuss the Obama-Dodd meeting, one said the president’s proposal for a consumer protection office was “nonnegotiable.” The administration sees political advantage in that position, believing that a consumer protection agency is the element mostly likely to be popular with the public in a complicated bill.

Coming days after Mr. Obama proposed a new tax on the nation’s biggest banks to recover taxpayer losses from the 15-month-old financial bailout, the meeting on Tuesday suggested the White House would become more active in taking on industry lobbyists who have gained the upper hand in the Senate, winning support from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

More broadly, Democrats say that Mr. Obama’s stances on the consumer agency and the new tax on big banks, together with his public comments assailing the banks, suggests an effort to position himself as more of a populist fighter at the opening of a midterm election year.
“Maybe the administration will decide that they want to turn this into a partisan battle but, coming out of health care, I don’t think the majority of senators want to have a partisan battle,” said Edward L. Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association. “They want a bipartisan bill.”

Yet many Democrats and liberal activists are holding Mr. Obama to his proposal for an independent office for consumers’ financial protection.

“The consumer agency is the litmus test,” said Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who has been an outspoken chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the financial bailout. Read more at NYT