John Carney makes some good points in defense of Elizabeth Warren, the liberal law professor who chairs the congressional oversight panel on TARP. Warren’s critics have accused her of overstepping her bounds by comparing TARP unfavorably to other approaches, such as federal receivership. Megan McArdle wrote, “We seem to have lost an oversight panel, and gained another voice shouting slogans at congress.” Carney points out that Warren’s panel lacks the authority to do real oversight — that’s Neil Barofsky’s job — and that it’s good to have people like Warren pushing back against Geithner’s “deranged” ideas:
Keep in mind that Warren’s actual authority is quite limited. She lacks subpoena power. She has no ability to enforce her opinions. She cannot order Treasury or banks to perform any tasks, answer any inquiries or withhold from any activities. All she can do is talk. She’s something of a public advocate, speaking as an outside critic. That’s something that’s very valuable given the refusal of the Obama administration to engage in public deliberation about its bailout plans.
I agree. In fact, my latest article for NRO argues that the Republicans on the panel, Jeb Hensarling and John Sununu, should use the panel’s bully pulpit, to the extent it provides one, to push conservative alternatives to TARP. (For more on that, see today’s editorial.)