BOSTON (AP) — In her first two years in the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren has drawn praise and ire among her Capitol Hill colleagues as well as the ardent support of liberal loyalists.
The Massachusetts Democrat has locked horns with Republicans and President Barack Obama, won a Senate leadership post and made her first official overseas trip — all while brushing aside calls to run for president in 2016.
The spotlight on Warren is particularly welcome in Massachusetts, which had grown accustomed to wielding outsized political clout in the U.S. Senate with Edward Kennedy, who died in 2009, and John Kerry, who stepped down last year to become secretary of state.
Former Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Philip Johnston said what distinguishes Warren is her “absolute fearlessness” in confronting those she believes are unfairly using their economic leverage.
“CEOs of banks usually intimidate members of the Senate because they speak a different language,” he said. “Elizabeth speaks that language … and she calls them out.”
While Warren’s name wasn’t on the ballot this year, she was a near-constant presence in the midterm elections, crisscrossing the country to stump for Democratic Senate incumbents and hopefuls. Helping sustain that effort was Warren’s fundraising prowess.
Warren, who raised more than $41 million during the 2012 campaign in which she unseated Republican Scott Brown, has collected $2.6 million in campaign contributions since January 2013, even though she doesn’t face re-election for four more years. Warren raised nearly $2 million for her PAC for a Level Playing Field, contributing to dozens of Democratic candidates.
The campaign activity is one reason Warren’s political stock has skyrocketed among Democrats. This month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named her to serve as strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
Among Republicans, the former Harvard Law professor is a popular foil.
One of Warren’s most public clashes came in June when Republican senators blocked legislation sponsored by Warren aimed at letting people refinance their student loans at lower rates. Republicans complained it was a political ploy that wouldn’t have lowered education costs or reduced borrowing.
The friction goes back to at least 2011, when Republicans signaled their opposition to her being appointed the first director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create. Later that year she announced her decision to run for the Senate.
While much of her focus has been on Republicans and Wall Street, Warren isn’t shy about criticizing Obama.
After the Democrats’ midterm drubbing, Warren cautioned both Obama and fellow lawmakers from reacting in a way that could hurt struggling families.
“The solution to this isn’t a basket of quickly passed laws designed to prove Congress can do something — anything,” Warren wrote in the Washington Post. “The solution isn’t for the president to cut deals — any deals — just to show he can do business.”
More recently, Warren has called on Obama to fill vacancies at the Federal Reserve with “tough overseers” instead of “Wall Street insiders,” warning that “evidence is mounting that the Fed is too cozy with the big banks to provide the kind of tough oversight that’s needed.”
She also faulted Obama for nominating Antonio Weiss, the head of investment banking for a financial advisory and asset management firm, for a position at the Treasury Department. Warren said Weiss isn’t qualified to oversee consumer protection and domestic regulatory functions at the Treasury.
Her opposition to Weiss has drawn criticism.
“Ms. Warren’s other main objection is simply that Mr. Weiss has worked on Wall Street, which she seems to believe disqualifies him based on symbolism alone,” wrote Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times columnist and author of “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System — and Themselves.”
One weak spot in Warren’s resume is foreign policy experience. She set about addressing with her first overseas trip as senator to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
That trip, along with virtually any other public move Warren makes, fuels speculation that she might consider a presidential run — despite her public denials.
The group Ready for Warren has launched a three-month campaign to collect 100,000 letters, postcards and signatures urging Warren to reconsider.
“It’s our role to show her that there’s a grassroots moment out there urging her to step in,” said Kate Albright-Hanna, the group’s deputy campaign manager.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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