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The Shelby cobra: Fast and loose with the Constitution

The Constitution (Article II, Sec. 2) provides that high-ranking public officials be selected by the president and assume office after the president seeks the “advice and consent” of the Senate.

When it comes to appointing officials who must clean up the wreckage wrought by Wall Street and establish new rules so that it doesn’t happen again, Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, seems to hold a different view.

This attorney and former prosecutor apparently views such nominations as his personal purview.

This week, Peter Diamond withdrew his name from consideration to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Despite his Nobel Prize in economics, Shelby considered him “an old-fashioned, big government Keynesian.” Shelby serves in the minority and presumably would lose in a majority-wins vote on the Diamond nomination; but Shelby’s opinion doomed the Nobel Laureate.

Comes now the potential nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s the agency aimed at preventing the reckless loan-making and other abuses by bank executives that doomed our economy. But Shelby doesn’t seem to be listening to the victims of the bank-caused economic malaise, the unemployed in his district, to those booted out of their homes through foreclosure, or to the Auburn and University of Alabama honors graduates struggling to find a good job. Instead, he seems to hear only the 3,000 bank lobbyists who spend $1.4 million a day arguing that he should apply his privileged constitutional authority and “advise and consent” Elizabeth Warren out of Washington.

Warren threatens, apparently, because she may do what Congress mandated, namely, to fight “unfair, deceptive and abusive” banking practices. And so Shelby volleys bombs at Warren. He’s railed against her in speeches. He collected the signatures of 43 other senators to threaten President Barack Obama about her. (That letter, alone, is a scandal deserving a name that short-hands the entire bank-caused economic crisis.)

To be fair, Shelby doesn’t work alone. The $1.4 million-a-day, 3,000-strong bank lobby has recruited other Capitol Hill lawmakers, such as House Oversight subcommittee chair Patrick McHenry. At a recent hearing, he twice called Harvard Law Professor Warren a liar.

America to Shelby: Bring it on. These lawmakers apparently fail to understand that bankers poll worse with the American public than members of Congress. With a consumer population tired of paying $4 ATM fees to retrieve their own money, and who all know banks caused them and their family and friends lasting harm, Warren approaches sainthood.

Hold a hearing. Hold two. Recite the Constitution. Prof. Warren will demonstrate more than a little familiarity.