Later today, President Obama will not nominate Elizabeth Warren to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the soon-to-be created federal agency that's largely based on Warren's own ideas.
Instead, he'll hire her as "an Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," according to a post Warren wrote this morning on the White House blog.
Update: Obama made the formal announcement early this afternoon, and said Warren would be the "architect" of the new bureau, the AP reports.
The political calculus here is pretty clear. The director of the new agency has to be confirmed by the Senate, and Warren is unpopular among Republicans. As an assistant and special advisor, she won't have to go through the Senate.
But what exactly does her new job entail?
Broadly, she'll help oversee the setup of the agency, which is supposed to look out for the interests of ordinary people in their dealings with the finance industry. But the specifics of Warren's role are murky.
The Washington Post says Warren will be able "to act as the bureau's director beginning immediately."
But when Sen. Chris Dodd was asked yesterday if Warren would be acting as de facto director, he said: "Well, you can't do that. ... You've got to have someone confirmable here, and I'd be totally opposed to someone on a backdoor operation here."
Dodd, who is a supporter of Warren, was one of the authors of the law that created the bureau. This morning's WSJ says that law may effectively limit Warren's authority:
Lawyers were scrutinizing a two-paragraph section of the Dodd-Frank law (Section 1066), which suggests Treasury's powers setting up the agency might extend only to areas such as transferring employees and other powers from existing agencies. In other words, Treasury—and Ms. Warren by extension—might not have broad authority to write new rules and guidelines. In fact, the law says only that "The Director may prescribe rules and issue orders and guidance."
Of course, Warren's new job is likely to give her plenty of input into who that director will be.
"There's no possibility she would take something like this unless she was fully empowered to do the job," Rep. Barney Frank, another co-author of the law, told the NYT.