Warren rankles colleagues in bank fight

Greg Nash

Liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling out fellow Democrats by name for backing what she is panning as the “Bank Lobbyist Act” and it’s not sitting well with colleagues up for reelection in November.

Senate Democrats facing potentially tough races in states that President Trump won in 2016 are eager to show voters they can work with Republicans to get things done.

They find it galling that Warren is blowing the whistle on a vote they took this week to begin debate on legislation rolling back part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

Lawmakers find it especially annoying that Warren called them out in a fundraising email circulated among the liberal base.

“The Senate held its first floor vote on the Bank Lobbyist Act — their bill to roll back the rules on some of the biggest banks in the country,” Warren’s political team wrote in a fundraising email. “We want everyone to know whose side their senators are standing on this week: the big banks or the American people.”


Team Warren urged supporters to circulate an image of the vote tally, listing the names of 16 Democrats who voted to begin debate on the legislation.

That rankled fellow Democrats, who accused Warren of trying to profit by making them look bad.

They also think she’s mischaracterizing the bill.

“It’s just unbelievable that Elizabeth Warren would not only attack her colleagues but also use this opportunity to raise money for her campaign,” said one Democratic aide.

Another Democratic aide accused Warren of misrepresenting what the legislation actually does.

“This bipartisan bill is about providing relief for community banks and credit unions across rural America and no misrepresentations of this bill change those facts,” the aide said.

The source called Warren’s actions “disappointing.”

Warren knows she’s ruffling feathers but isn’t about to apologize.  

“I call it like I see it on the #BankLobbyistAct,” she wrote on Medium in a Thursday post.

“Saying Democrats are helping roll back rules on big banks doesn’t make me the most popular kid on the team,” she acknowledged. “But Massachusetts didn’t send me here to fight for big banks.”

Warren has warned colleagues for months that she would take a strong stance against the bill.

She won election to the Senate in 2012 running as someone who would be a tough critic of Wall Street and in 2014 even charged that President Obama’s economic team “protected Wall Street” as it sorted through the carnage of the financial collapse.

Warren almost took down a major spending bill known as the “Cromnibus” in 2014 because it included language watering down a key Dodd-Frank reform that prohibited federal assistance to institutions dealing in risky derivatives known as swaps. 

Democrats who support the legislation argue that it will provide relief to community banks that were unfairly swept up in the 2010 Wall Street Reform Act that was passed after the financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession.

The bill would raise the asset threshold at which a bank’s holding company is considered systemically important from $50 billion to $250 billion and exempt all banks with less than $100 billion in assets from federal stress tests.

Jonathan Kott, a spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is up for reelection in a heavily pro-Trump state, rejected the charge that his boss is siding with big banks.

“Nope. Sen. Manchin thinks the community banks in [West Virginia] need some regulatory relief,” he said.

But critics argue that it’s a special-interest giveaway that could open the door to a new wave of reckless financial activity.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of Warren’s allies in the fight, rejects the portrayal of the bill as a “modest” proposal just to help community banks, credit unions and regional lenders.

“This bill weakens stress tests for the 38 biggest banks in the country — the Wall Street megabanks — like Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, and HSBC and Citigroup,” he thundered on the Senate floor Wednesday, noting those banks together accepted $239 billion in taxpayer bailouts ten years ago.

“Stress tests are the best tool we have to make sure another bailout never happens again — and this bill weakens them,” he said. 

Tags Bank Democrats Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Fight Fundraising Joe Manchin Sherrod Brown Warren
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