Monday, August 29, 2011

Liberal Hero Warren Eyes Mass. Senate Race: Brown May Go Down


An influential liberal champion, former Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, is preparing to challenge Sen. Scott Brown, who became a conservative hero after taking Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts. Along with being on the far Left in outlook, she is also a strong candidate with widespread appeal to Massachusetts voters, which could present a much greater challenge than the bumbling Martha Coakley, who Brown shockingly rolled up in the 2010 special election.

Originally liberals wanted her to head the recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—which was created as regulatory sub-department of the Treasury. This bureau has been a source of deep contention between the two parties, with Republicans fighting hard to limit its power.

Warren was the person who advocated for the CFPB’s creation and has been controlling it as a special adviser. Liberal activists fought hard to get her onboard, but President Obama has decided to nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who will have to pass through the legislature in early September. Since that time, Warren has been replaced as special adviser, and a member of the Treasury has taken her place.

Warren has already had a great deal of influence in Obama’s financial policy. She created many of the regulations contained in the Dodd-Frank financial reform, which will in large part be carried out by the CFPB.

Warren’s appointment to the CFPB was initially blocked by Republicans. They prevented a Memorial Day recess that would have allowed Obama to appoint her without confirmation. So the bureau has been left without a department head and Warren has only operated as an adviser, although she is one with broad powers.

Without having a department head, the CFPB cannot put regulations into effect. Therefore, it’s likely that Republicans will block any appointment, including Cordray, regardless of ideology. Still, blocking the person who created the agency has been a victory for Republicans and conservatives.

Democrats have avoided placing Warren in a higher official position because of the grilling she would likely get from Republicans in Congress. In fact, there always seem to be sparks when she testifies at a congressional hearing.

Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), became frustrated with her evasive non-answers before a subcommittee. When asked about dramatic wage increases for some of the agency's top employees, Warren answered by talking about obscure management theory, and only came up with an answer after being repeatedly prodded by the committee members.

In another hearing, Issa tangled with Warren over Freedom of Information Act requests from Judicial Watch that were sent entirely blacked out.

Issa said that the financial disclosures were “so inadequate that Judicial Watch is appealing the CFPB’s search for productive records, saying that it was an abuse of disclosure.”

Warren also got in a heated debate with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R.-N.C.), who is a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chairman. During the hearing, he announced that the committee had to leave for an hour to vote. Warren then claimed that McHenry had vacillated on calling her to appear before the committee and that they previously agreed she could go to another engagement.

McHenry then, essentially, called her a liar. He said, “We had no agreement, you’re making this up, Miss Warren.” This exchange, of course, caused a stir in the hearing, and Warren sat in shocked silence.

The confrontations and lack of directness in her testimonials before Congress created doubt as to the operation of the CFPB, making it appear to be a sinister agency avoiding the eyes of Congress and the country.

The impact the CFPB can have on Americans, from small-business owners to ordinary citizens who simply have a bank account, is potentially enormous.

The CFPB is an agency that was opposed by Republicans to begin with, and Warren’s lack of cooperation in revealing its activities only adds suspicions that the bureau will use broad powers to control the nation’s finances. Republicans have called it a “super class of administrative elites” created to control society through unelected institutions. It will have regulatory power over banks, credit-card companies and credit unions, as well as all manner of financial institutions.

Liberals couldn’t get her onboard at the CFPB, so they are trying to find another role for Warren in politics.

Because she is a longtime resident of Massachusetts, there has been speculation that Warren may be recruited to run for the Senate. She would challenge Republican incumbent Brown, who may have difficulty maintaining support in a state that has such a strong liberal tradition. His move to the middle has angered and demoralized many conservatives, so Brown may lack the support to defeat a strong liberal candidate.

Warren has already been on a Massachusetts statewide “listening tour” and has now filed to form a Senate exploratory committee to test her options.

While Elizabeth Warren may not be recognizable to many Americans, she is someone who has had and will continue to have more impact on the nation. So far, Republicans have been successful in blocking her appointment to the CFPB, but liberals know she is a champion for their cause and will continue to push her into positions of power.

Despite his relatively high approval ratings, Warren may become a problem for Brown, who must reignite the passion in the conservatives and Tea Party members who got him elected. While his run to the middle has been frustrating to party activists, and has created a feeling of betrayal, his stances are dramatically more conservative than Warren’s.

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