House Republicans Take Aim At Elizabeth Warren To Slow Down Financial Reform

Since they can’t realistically repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform law due to President Obama’s veto pen, Republicans have been gearing up to slow down the law’s implementation by hassling regulators with hearing appearances, questionnaires, and resolutions of disapproval. To that end, Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) sent a letter yesterday to the newly-constituted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which operates as part of the Treasury Department until July 2011), voicing concerns about the Bureau’s supposed lack of oversight.

The lawmakers took particular aim at Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, the special adviser to the President who is currently leading the Bureau, saying they planned to scrutinize everything she does:

“There is a clear absence of accountability and transparency” about the activities Treasury is undertaking to establish the consumer bureau, the letters said…The lawmakers signaled they planned to scrutinize Ms. Warren’s every move, writing that they “are concerned that Professor Warren will be approaching this task without any experience managing — or creating — an organization of this scale and importance.”

Bachus and Biggert asked for a response to their concerns by January 10th, and according to the Wall Street Journal, “the reports requested by the lawmakers will likely lead to hearings.”

As the Center for Public Integrity reported, Republicans have a handful of options available for slow-walking financial reform, among them “peppering agencies with letters and with oversight hearings.” And they’re keying in on Warren as the focal point of their efforts, despite her vast qualifications for the position and the lack of substantive complaints against her that the GOP has mustered.

Of course, transparency and accountability are valid concerns, and Treasury should be completely open about the process of setting up the Bureau. But since Republicans are staunchly opposed to the Bureau’s very existence, this looks more like an effort to bog its employees down in paperwork and appearances on Capitol Hill, rather than a good-faith effort at oversight.

The way in which Republicans are treating Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chief Don Berwick is illustrative. Last week, Berwick appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to ostensibly answer questions about the agency’s progress in implementing the Affordable Care Act. Instead of using their time to ask productive questions, Republicans simply griped about how they didn’t have enough questioning time.

As more of letters like that sent by Bachus and Bigger head out the door, and the almost inevitable hearings begin to take place, we’ll be able to see whether House Republicans actually have an interest in implementing Dodd-Frank in a responsible manner, or if they’re simply intending to try crippling the ability of the Bureau to get off the ground.