In an act of war against Wall Street, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is furiously drumming up opposition to President Obama’s pick for an important Treasury Department position.
Nominee Antonio Weiss has donated money to the Democratic Party, authored a Center for American Progress paper calling for a massive tax hike on the rich and is the publisher of progressive magazine the Paris Review. He’s also the head of investment banking for a successful financial firm, Lazard.
His supporters argue his Wall Street experience better qualifies him to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, where he would oversee consumer protection, banking regulation and economic policy.
But progressive sweetheart Warren has vowed to vote against Weiss, saying he is one Wall Street pick too many. “[At] some point we have to recognize that there are other types of experience besides working on Wall Street that qualify people to do [these jobs],” Warren told a group of donors Sunday, according to Politico. At the same talk, she reportedly claimed that blacks and Hispanics were “targeted” during the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
She’s outlined concerns about Weiss specifically, such as his involvement in a high-profile corporate inversion and his international investment experience, but at the heart of her opposition is frustration with Democrats and the Obama administration for failing to take a harder line against Wall Street, and for allowing undue policy influence.
“The over-representation of Wall Street banks in senior government positions sends a bad message,” she wrote recently in the Huffington Post. “It tells people that one — and only one — point of view will dominate economic policymaking. It tells people that, whatever goes wrong in this economy, the Wall Street banks will be protected first.”
A number of Democratic senators, including current Majority Whip Dick Durbin, have stated their opposition to Weiss, and other progressives are following their lead. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee blasted an email Monday urging progressives to call members of the Senate Finance Committee and voice their opposition to Weiss.
“Since the election, we’ve been telling Democrats the way to win in 2016 is to stand for big, bold, progressive ideas that will benefit everyday Americans,” the email reads. “Filling this role with yet another investment banker — when Wall Street is already over-represented in senior government positions — is the exact opposite of that.”
Sheila Bair, former FDIC chair, also came alongside Warren in a Monday op-ed published by Fortune. “The real question is greater diversity in Obama’s appointments because it sure seems like the Wall Street Democrats are in charge,” she wrote. “Let’s face it, most of this Administration’s financial appointments have not pushed for fundamental change in the way Wall Street operates.”
The fight is a test of Warren and other progressive Democrats’ ability to pull the party further to the left, following its decisive loss in the midterm elections. It could also foreshadow how Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street connections will play in the 2016 Democratic primaries.
“The Antonio Weiss nomination has become a crucial moment in the fight for the future of this country,” progressive group Democracy for America wrote in an email blast reported by Bloomberg. “We cannot let Wall Street win.”
Weiss’s confirmation hearings will likely take place next year in a Republican-controlled Senate.
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