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Geithner: Warren ‘Absolutely’ Qualified to Run Consumer Financial Protection Agency

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tamped down speculation Wednesday that he does not support Elizabeth Warren to oversee the consumer protection agency created under the financial regulatory overhaul, calling the Harvard Law professor “absolutely” qualified for the job.

Warren, who is chairwoman of the Congressional oversight panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, is “probably the most effective advocate of reform we have in the country” in terms of pointing out concerns in the credit business, Geithner said during an interview on PBS’ “Charlie Rose.”

“She is an incredibly capable, effective advocate for reform,” Geithner said. “She was way ahead of her time, way ahead of the country in pointing out what was actually happening in the credit business. All the bad stuff that was happening, the looming housing crisis, she was pioneering and pointing out those risks. … I think she’d do a great job in that position.”

The consumer protection agency will have the authority to regulate and analyze consumer financial products such as mortgages, student loans and credit cards.

Still, the Treasury secretary hedged when asked whether Warren, the preferred candidate among liberals, was his top pick for the position. “That’s a judgment the president’s going to have to make,” he said. “And we’re just now in the process.”

Geithner’s remarks come amid reports that he has privately expressed concern that Warren is too consumer-friendly. Concerns have also surfaced on the Hill about Warren’s ability to make it through the confirmation process.

During an interview this week on WAMU-FM’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) described Warren as “a terrific nominee” but said there is “serious question” about whether she could get enough confirmation votes.

But Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the attendees at Wednesday’s presidential signing ceremony for the financial regulatory overhaul, praised Warren as an ideal candidate for the post. “I fought hard for a strong consumer financial protection agency, and I think Elizabeth Warren would be an excellent choice to lead it,” he said.

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