Elizabeth Warren, the consumer advocate and Harvard professor who's heading up the brand-new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in its infancy, stopped by the House of Representatives today for a hearing called — seriously — "Who's Watching the Watchmen?" It got kind of intense!
If you're a Democrat, the CFPB, created as part of last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, is supposed to help protect consumers (and prevent another financial crisis) by enforcing federal laws about banks not being total predatory assholes. If you're a Republican, the CFPB is a plot by which the Obama administration plans on weakening the financial system in preparation for the introduction of Sharia law.
As you might imagine, the Republicans at the hearing were not particularly welcoming to the agency's head, accusing her of misleading Congress about her role (without evidence) and wondering why the bureau's starting salary was $70,000 (the CFPB needs to compete with banks for top talent). But the best part came at the end, when hearing chair Rep. Patrick McHenry (who, The Nation's Ari Berman points out, "has accepted generous campaign donations this year from big banks and industry trade associations opposed to bureau"), tried to go to a recess:
Ms. Warren objected, saying that she had agreed to be present for only an hour and had no more time. Mr. McHenry disagreed and said that other subcommittee members still had questions for her.
A vigorous back and forth ensued.
"Congressman, you are causing problems," Ms. Warren said. "We had an agreement."
"You're making this up," Mr. McHenry replied, eliciting gasps from the audience. "This is not the case."
HE JUST WENT THERE. He just called her a liar! (HuffPo's Michael McAuliff writes that a "CFPB source later confirmed to Huffington Post that there had been a specific agreement," and that Warren was right.) The Times calls it "a rare collapse of decorum." We call it what happens when congressmen stop being polite... and start getting real.
Warren's shock at McHenry's accusation, as you can see in the video above, is tailor-made for an animated GIF. So I made one: