Liberals buoyed by Warren’s promotion

Liberals buoyed by Warren’s promotion
© Greg Nash

Liberals have high hopes that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats face critical 72 hours The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Democrats inch closer to legislative deal This week: Democrats aim to unlock Biden economic, infrastructure package MORE's (D-Mass.) promotion to Democratic leadership will give them more sway in the next Congress.

Under pressure to shake things up after a disastrous midterm election cycle, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) this week named Warren to an advisory role where she’ll serve as a liaison to groups on the left.

While Reid and Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenators weigh future of methane fee in spending bill Biden hopes for deal on economic agenda before Europe trip The Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with Iron Dome funding MORE (D-N.Y.) will still have the reins on political strategy, Warren's appointment has been seen a sign that Democrats might move in a more populist direction.

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Progressive groups say Democrats were too centrist during the disastrous midterm election cycle, and argue Warren’s fiery persona — the same one that has many liberals pleading for her to run for president in 2016 — is exactly the stance that Democrats should take when Republicans are in the majority.

TJ Helmstetter, director of candidate communications support at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), said Warren's message "is exactly the direction the party needs to take in order to win again."

"Warren's appointment to Senate leadership is a reflection of the leadership she already exerts among the party faithful," Helmstetter said. "No matter who runs for president in 2016, they'll need to adopt Elizabeth Warren's economic populist agenda of big, bold ideas in order to excite voters and win."

Warren has had somewhat of a mixed record in garnering support from her party on high-profile policy initiatives. 

Democrats were wary of endorsing the bill she introduced with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' Grant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Will Trump choose megalomania over country? MORE (R-Ariz.) that would reinstate the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking law, which required commercial banks to split their investment banking operations.

Warren argues that President Clinton's repeal of Glass-Steagall contributed to the financial meltdown.

But on the issue of student debt, Democrats rallied behind Warren’s proposal to cut student loan rates by raising taxes on the wealthy. The legislation failed to pass the Senate, but Democrats used it as a rallying cry on the stump during the midterm campaign.

A Warren adviser said the leadership position will give her an opportunity to advocate on policies and priorities that she cares about from her seat in the weekly, closed-door leadership meetings.

Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign For America's Future, said Warren has a chance to put in place her ideas for fixing what she calls the “rigged game” of the American economy.

"She is leading the way in defining the future agenda and message vital to this country's future," Borosage said. "She already has created a national voice. The Democratic leaders were smart enough to recognize that."

Republicans are pleased with Warren’s promotion as well — but for a different reason.

They noted that the promotion comes just a week after voters demoted Democrats at the polls, rejecting a “fair shot” agenda that already emulated many of Warren’s ideas.

GOP strategist Chip Saltsman called Warren’s ascent to leadership a "hard left turn" that is "out of tune with the country."

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell dismissed Warren’s new job as a "participation trophy" and questioned how Democrats would react if Republican leadership promoted a political firebrand on the right: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas).

"Democrats should fear that they could be playing with fire and giving rise to the Ted Cruz of the left," O'Connell said. 

Warren's supporters bristle at the comparison to Cruz.

They argue that Warren was quick to get in line during the midterms, raising big bucks and hitting the campaign trail for Democratic candidates — even more centrist candidates. 

Jim Dean, Democracy For America chairman, said Democratic leaders got it right.

"Smart move," he said of the promotion. "Her fellow Senators are acknowledging Sen. Warren isn't just a liaison to a handful of Democratic activists, but the essential leader of the very heart of our party."