It’s been 13 days since Elizabeth Warren defeated Republican Scott Brown to become the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Even though she doesn’t officially assume the office until January, there’s a group of people already freaking out about the very real prospect of Senator Warren: bank lobbyists.
And who could blame them? They had a true friend in Scott Brown, who took more contributions from the financial industry than any other Senator or candidate, and who worked to weaken Wall Street reform just weeks after his election.
The contrast couldn’t be greater with Elizabeth Warren, who made her mark on the TARP Oversight Committee grilling bank execs and Treasury Secretary Geithner over their handling of the 2008 bank bailout. She’s already faced down Wall Street’s lobbyist-lawyer armada in 2010, when she successfully set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which has already recouped $425 million to consumers.
So the idea of Warren in a position to make policy governing banks has Wall Street and K Street in a tizzy, according to Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll:
Aides to two senators on the banking committee tell Mother Jones the industry has already moved to block Warren from joining the committee, which is charged with drafting legislation regulating much of the financial industry. “Downtown”—shorthand for Washington’s lobbying corridor—”has been going nuts” to keep her off the committee, another Senate aide says.
The “going nuts” has intensified since two Senators on the committee, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have expressed support for Warren joining their ranks. Reed has been pushing hard for Warren, telling George Zornick of The Nation “I can’t think of anybody that’s come to the Senate with thirty years of detailed knowledge of the industry…” Johnson, the Banking Committee’s Chairman, expressed that he would “welcome her to the Committee if that’s what she wishes.”
The final decision, however, lies in the hands of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. It also depends on the complex backroom Senate version of musical chairs, where various Senators are watching to see who takes what committee assignments before they make their intentions clear.
But let’s be clear about why the “Downtown” lobbyists are going nuts. They aren’t just frightened of a Senator who believes Wall Street shouldn’t operate like a casino. They are also frightened of a Senator who is as untethered to political party as Warren is:
Warren isn’t necessarily loyal to “Team Blue”—Democrat elected officials, their staffs, and the lobbyists connected to them. They point to Warren’s early clashes with the Obama administration’s Treasury Department over the financial sector bailout as evidence that she cannot be counted upon.
Scott Brown is still the Senator from Massachusetts until January, so for the purposes of the “lame duck” session he’s still the one to watch. But as the success of a petition from Daily Kos demonstrates, there’s a hunger for a pro-consumer, anti-Wall-Street-casino Senator among American working families – and real fear of it from the lobbyists “Downtown.”