McHenry-Warren tussle leads to call for recess appointment

McClatchy NewspapersMay 27, 2011 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry has 5,400 friends on Facebook, U.S. Rep. Brad Miller wonders whether McHenry's mama raised him right, and dozens of Democrats want President Barack Obama to slip a controversial consumer advocate into a position of power the next time Congress leaves town.

That's the upshot of the high-profile tussle between McHenry and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren at a congressional hearing Tuesday.

Obama could have had the chance over the Memorial Day recess to name Warren, a Harvard law professor, as a recess appointment to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But the Senate blocked that effort, technically staying in session through next week.

There will be three "pro forma" sessions of the Senate during the Memorial Day break to keep the body from technically going into recess, though no business will be conducted.

Usually Obama would have to go through Senate confirmation, but Republicans have said they'll block any name Obama puts forward.

The president could, instead, make what's called a "recess appointment," a method, authorized in the Constitution, for him to put leaders in power while Congress is out of town.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau starts work in late July, meaning Obama might have another chance over the Fourth of July congressional break.

More than 60 Democrats, including Miller, want him to do just that. In a letter to Obama they hope to send next week, the members wrote that he should put Warren in charge despite GOP objections.

"Since Republican senators have said that no one is acceptable unless the law is weakened, we would urge you to nominate Professor Warren as the CFPB's first director anyway," they wrote. "If Republicans in the Senate indeed refuse to consider her, we request that you use your constitutional authority to make her a recess appointment."

The letter follows Tuesday's hearing in which McHenry, a Cherryville Republican, brought on significant ire among liberals with his actions.

He was openly hostile to Warren at an oversight subcommittee hearing which he led, and on two occasions essentially accused her of lying. The hearing ended with a heated argument between the two over a scheduling dispute.

Warren has been advising the Obama administration on setting up the consumer bureau, which is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law. Many consumer advocates want her appointed as its new director, but her work is unpopular in the financial community.

By the end of the day Wednesday, McHenry had more than 3,500 friends on his Facebook page, with many "liking" him just to post hostile messages about him.

That number was up to nearly 5,500 by Friday afternoon.

McHenry put a good spin on the attention, heading to Twitter to say, "Thanks to my 2,500+ new Facebook friends for bring so much attention to Elizabeth Warren's scheduling issues."

Miller, a fellow North Carolinian and a champion among consumer advocates, tweeted his own message to McHenry on Thursday:

"I thought Southern mothers try to teach their sons some manners. Apparently some don't try, or try and fail. #GOPfearsWarren"

McHenry is standing by his actions at the hearing, a spokesman said this week.

Warren hasn't commented on the scuffle. In a public appearance Friday, she touched briefly on her consumer advocacy work during a commencement speech at her alma mater, the Rutgers University School of Law, and offered what might — or might not — have been a reference to this week's news.

"My law degree opened a thousand doors for me — a young mother from Oklahoma who had never met a lawyer," Warren said in her address. "Through the years, I've tried to use what I learned here to kick open a few doors myself."

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