If the financial reform bill doesn't establish an effective and independent consumer protection agency, Congress would be better off passing nothing at all, Elizabeth Warren warned on Friday.
Warren, one of the country's foremost consumer-right's advocates and the congressionally-appointed watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said her chief concern is that financial regulatory reform legislation will suffer the same fate as health care reform -- with noble principles either scaled down or negotiated away. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency, she said, is not optional.
"The CFPA is the heart of what makes regulatory reform work," Warren said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "The consumer credit market is where the biggest abuses were. It is where families will be most directly affected and it is where the American people will see change. CFPA is how to make clear that regulatory reform is for them, and that it isn't a game among insiders.
"We just can't pass a regulatory reform bill that acquiesces to the industry on every front and where everything is so watered down that nobody has to take a hard vote," she said.
"It's not ok to weaken the agency so much that, while everyone can vote yes and pretend to support consumers' right to a fair deal, nothing really changes. I want a strong agency, and if there's not going to be a strong agency, then I at least want to see an up-or-down vote on it. Let's see a vote."
And if it fails?
"Shame on them," Warren declared.
The remarks are a shot across the brow to Democratic lawmakers, particularly Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who recently floated the idea of dropping the CFPA as a way of winning bipartisan support for the bill. Dodd is a strong CFPA supporter himself, but the difficulty of corralling the 60 votes needed to beat back a Republican filibuster has compelled him to consider concessions. Dodd is said to be offering Republicans a consumer protection program that would be tucked inside another regulatory agency, rather than being independent.
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