WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts joined two other members of the Senate Banking Committee in calling for Republican lawmakers to vote on confirming the appointed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The agency, the Warren brainchild created in 2010 to regulate financial services such as mortgage lending, has been controversial on Capitol Hill. GOP senators have pledged to block the confirmation of Richard Cordray, director of the body, until the agency is overhauled.
The agency’s hazy path forward has created uncertainty in the financial sector, as banks do not know which rules to follow, Warren said Wednesday at a press conference with Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
“It’s time for the United States Senate to give Rich Cordray an up or down vote,” Warren said.
The call to action came a day before the Senate Banking Committee’s hearing on Wall Street reform. Cordray and other regulators will testify.
Republicans have threatened to block his appointment through filibuster until the agency comes under congressional oversight and adopts a five-member board of directors, among other changes.
“Allowing a single unelected official to define their own jurisdiction and regulate vast segments of our economy without accountability or restraint is irresponsible,” said Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican.
But Reed said such action will “eviscerate [the agency] so it won’t operate” correctly.
Consumers “have got to know that they have an agency that’s out there to protect them,” he said.
Kerry hoping for a peaceful solution to crisis in Syria
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Wednesday that he has ideas on how to change President Bashar Assad of Syria’s calculation on remaining in power, suggesting the Obama administration could put additional pressure on his regime.
Kerry told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan at the State Department that he hoped Assad could be convinced to enter into a negotiated solution with the Syrian opposition that would end almost two years of bloody violence that has killed nearly 70,000 people and move forward with true democratic reform.
“We need to address the question of President Assad’s calculation currently. I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception,” Kerry said.
Kerry did not elaborate and pointedly offered no guarantee of success, particularly since Assad has defied calls to step down and clung to power throughout the crisis that has grown increasingly desperate. But, Kerry said, his priority was to find a peaceful resolution.
“I can assure you my goal is to see us change his calculation, my goal is to see us have a negotiated outcome and minimize the violence,” he said. “It may not be possible. I am not going to stand here and tell you that’s automatic or easily achievable. There are a lot of forces that have been unleashed here over the course of the last months.”
The former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will discuss his ideas when he visits European and Middle East officials beginning the last week of February.
As a senator, Kerry had floated several ideas for ramping up the pressure on Assad, including creating protected safe zones for regime opponents and arming the rebels.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Assad is living in a “fantasy world” if he thinks he can survive the rebellion.
Pentagon creates medal for troops not on the battlefield
WASHINGTON — They fight the war from computer consoles and video screens.
But the troops that launch the drone strikes and direct the cyberattacks that can kill or disable an enemy might never set foot in the combat zone. Now their battlefield contributions could be recognized.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that for the first time the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it from afar.
“Modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said. “They’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.”
The new blue, red, and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded for “extraordinary achievement.” But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient to risk his or her life.
The medal will be the first combat-related award created since the Bronze Star in 1944.