Elizabeth Warren, President Obama's controversial choice to head the new consumer financial regulatory agency, skipped out of a House Oversight hearing before answering questions from two members of the committee, claiming that she had reached an agreement allowing her to leave at that time. But Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-NC, chair of the subcommittee holding the hearing, said no such agreement existed.
“You're making this up, Ms. Warren,” McHenry fired back when Warren claimed she only agreed to come under the condition she could leave at 2:15 p.m.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD, came to Warren's defense, saying, “You just accused the lady of lying.”
The hearing before the TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs subcommittee was expected to be contentious. The organized Left and a growing number of House and Senate Democrats are urging Obama to make a recess appointment of the Harvard Law School professor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a bureaucracy created by last year's financial regulatory law. The new CFPB would be given wide-ranging powers to regulate consumer financial products, much as the Federal Reserve Board regulates the banking system.
Obama has already circumvented Congress by making Warren an adviser at the Treasury Department, where she has been serving as the de facto head of CFPB. Republicans have threatened dire consequences if Obama goes through with the plan to recess appoint her.
The hearing had been expected to start at 2, but it got changed to 1:15 to accommodate the House schedule. For about an hour, House members asked Warren about the financing and role of the new agency, but then McHenry tried to call a recess so members could vote, and Warren said she had been promised she could leave at 2:15.
A tense exchange ensued.
Warren claimed that the schedule had been changed on her four times in 12 hours, and she received late night phone calls about the changes. She said she had to rearrange her schedule to accommodate the new start time, and now had a scheduled meeting, so she couldn't stay an additional 10 minutes to answer more questions.
McHenry argued that Republican committee staff had been working for weeks to accommodate her schedule, even choosing this day because it worked best for her. He claimed that there was no firm agreement on when she could leave, only a pledge to try to get her out as soon as possible.
When he said he didn't want to cause Warren problems, she shot back “You are causing problems.” She claimed “I have other obligations I committed to” based on the understanding she could leave.
After several minutes of back and fourth, during which none of the other committee members had come back from casting votes to ask questions, McHenry begrudgingly dismissed Warren.