Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN-5) speaks out against treatment he describes as "rudeness and disrespect" directed at Elizabeth Warren during a House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on July 14, 2011. It should be noted that Rep. Cooper voted against Dodd Frank, and is accurately described as a blue dog.
COOPER: Thank you Mr Chairman, I don't have a question for the witness I do have a comment and primarily aimed at the junior members of the committee on both sides of the isle.
I think all of us realize that this Congress is viewed as dysfunctional. And I would submit this Committee is also viewed as dysfunctional, and this alleged hearing is one of the reasons why. It too easily degenerates into a partisan food fight, and it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, just a few years ago in Congress, it was not this way.
So I would urge the junior members of the committee to resist the partisan talking points that enable people on both sides of the aisle to walk in here, read a question, make a partisan hit, look like we're smart and then leave. That's not good governance regardless of which party's in charge.
I didn't vote for Dodd-Frank. It had many good features; it had some less good features. But I do not want to be part of a committee, at least at the subcommittee level, that treated Miss Warren with more rudeness and disrespect than I have ever seen a committee witness treated. That is not the American way.
Now, some of us come here and we get so used to the food fight that we want it to continue. And you'll probably score brownie points if you make your partisan hit. You might even get on a better committee. Well, congratulations. You will not have solved a problem.
I would suggest to the Chairman and the ranking member that often times a seminar format is much more instructive, is much more educational than the sort of partisan charade we seem to continue to engage in with hearings like this. I would urge members to read Ms Warren's, one of her books. I've only read the Two Income Trap, it's outstanding. Your constituents back home should read this book. Your bankers back home should read this book. Then there'd be a lot less hatred, a lot less discord, a lot less anger because this lady's trying to do the right thing.
And we all recognize that consumers often times get the short end of the stick. I've tried to refinance my home mortgage several times to take advantage of today's record low interest rates and the paperwork is a blizzard. I went to a very good law school and it's almost impossible for lawyers to understand this stuff.
Ms Warren has pointed out that the existing regulatory agencies have taken over a decade to try to simplify a couple of the forms and they have failed. What has this committee done to simplify some of the forms? Nothing. So, isn't it time for a new approach? Isn't it time for fresh thinking to give the consumers a break?
And let us also acknowledge that Congress is sometimes captured by vested interests. Sometimes that happens. And we need to resists that. So, I would urge the members of the committee, particularly the junior members who are not so entrenched in bad habits, consider a new and fresher approaches to solve some of these problems so that we can protect consumers and also give legitimate industries a fair shake, because all bankers aren't bad people.
But I'm afraid that we're falling into a rut here that is going to be to the detriment not only of this committee and this Congress but of the nation. It doesn't have to be this way. We can be civil to each other. We can be informed. We can resist the partisan talking points. But I'm not seeing that sort of behavior, at least so far. So, let's try to do better and let's try to be civil to witnesses like Ms Warren. Let's try to focus on the substance, because I've actually heard very little substance here today. And there are better ways to solve our problems and I hope that this committee will be part of those. So, I thank the Chairman.
Thursday morning at 9:30am, Elizabeth Warren is scheduled to answer questions at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. Back near the end of May, you will remember, Warren appeared before an Oversight subcommittee, a confrontation that ended less than amicably. As with that hearing, we'll be watching to see how our elected officials treat the only person in all of DC who is charged with protecting consumers.
UPDATE II: Congressman John Yarmuth's office has
posted a clip of his comments on the tone of today's hearing. Video
embedded at the bottom of this post, definitely worth watching.
UPDATE: We reached out to the press team in Chairman
McHenry's office. We were not able to reach someone immediately. We
await their reply and, should we get one, will share it unedited with
Well, that was... ummm... interesting. Not sure I've ever seen a hearing end quite like this one did. Chairman McHenry basically ended the meeting by accusing Elizabeth Warren of outright lying. This is representative of the treatment she received throughout the hearing.
WARREN: You are causing problems. We had an agreement for a later
hearing. Your staff asked us to move around so that we had to change
everything on my schedule to try to accommodate your time...
MCHENRY: I certainly appreciate that but the original hearing was 2:00..
WARREN: ... the agreement was that I would be out of here at 2:15 because there are other things now scheduled at 2:30.
MCHENRY: That was a request but we moved the hearing so that you could actually get the questions in.
WARREN: Congressman (pause) you told us one thing...
MCHENRY: I did not tell you anything...
CUMMINGS: We have no one here to ask questions, Mr. Chairman. We have no one here to ask questions.
WARREN: I have other obligations I committed to based on the
representations of your staff, and our effort to try to accommodate you
and rearrange our schedule to accommodate you.
MCHENRY: Look, Ms Warren, it was a simple request. Your staff had a
request, my staff said we're trying to accommodate you. We're going to
get you out of here in ten minutes if you just...
WARREM: No, Congressman, we had an agreement.
MCHENRY: You had no agreement.
WARREN: We had an agreement for the time this hearing would...
MCHENRY: You're making this up, Ms Warren...
CUMMINGS: Oh, please...
MCHENRY: This is not the case. This is not the case.
CUMMINGS: Mr Chairman, you, you just did something that I, I'm trying
to be cordial here, but you just accused the lady of lying...
MCHENRY: She's accusing me of making an agreement that I never made.
CUMMINGS: I think you need to clear this up with your staff...
MCHENRY: I have...
CUMMINGS: That may have moved this thing around 50 million times and she's got to go to another hearing.
WARREN: Congressman, not to another hearing, to another meeting.
Congressman, I would be glad to answer questions for the record. We can
do that if you'll just send us questions for the record we're glad to
answer them and they'll be a matter of the public record.
It was a messy and confusing ending for all watching. Warren had stated that the Chairman's staff and her, after a late-night, last-minute schedule change, had agreed to let her leave by 2:15 to meet other obligations. You can see the look of shock on her face when he outright calls her a liar.
This video, recorded live, comes from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's livefeed.
Congressman Yarmuth's remarks on the tone of today's hearing:
Update II: Just got off the phone with the committee staff (who were very receptive and helpful). We should be good to go, but because of changes we don't want to make any promises. We'll be here trouble shooting.
Update: They've changed the time to 1:15pm and have moved the hearing to the second room. We are working on getting the feed for that room right now but can't make any promises.
White House adviser Elizabeth Warren heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday at 2:00pm to speak with a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). House Republicans have pitted themselves firmly in favor of stripping power from the CFPB in advance the July deadline when much of its authority goes into effect.
Some progressives have been calling on the President to nominate Elizabeth Warren officially to head up the newly formed CFPB, some going so far as to declare that a recess appointment would be wise if she can't get approval from the Senate. To make their case, they cite Republicans who appear united in voting against any director without stripping that director of any ability to enact change.