In 2010, as Americans were fighting with all their strength to survive the meltdown of 2007-2009, Sen. Mitch McConnell infamously said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
The line was repeated again and again by Democrats and the folks on MSNBC. How could this Republican Senator’s primary goal in his capacity as a public servant be to defeat the president? What about the foreclosure crisis? Or the auto industry? Or job creation? To many, this seemed less like “principled opposition,” and more like a recipe for gridlock in Congress, by blocking the Obama Administration in its efforts to conduct the business of governing our nation. The apparent goal was to send the President back to Chicago and when it came to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to sequester Elizabeth Warren to her Harvard ivory tower.
Now the glittering confetti of Mr. McConnell’s exploded death star drifts harmlessly through the zero-gravity of deep space. My, what a difference a day makes.
The President will be living just down the road from Senator Warren for four more years, and he’ll be bumping into Senator Warren in the Senate cloakroom for at least the next six.
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No doubt, that reality is beginning to set in for Sen. McConnell. The history books will record this as a victory for consumer protection, which the Republican party has obsessively caucused against at every turn. It won’t be quite so easy for them to decimate Dodd-Frank now, nor are they likely to prevail in their efforts to defang the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senator-elect Warren, whom they sought to marginalize, will now be front and center in the fight to defend the fledgling agency in its efforts to protect families from predatory financial practices.
Last year, emboldened by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association, the Koch brothers and their Tea Party “patriots,” Republicans in Congress tried every tactic they could muster to undercut the CFPB — from attempts to dilute its leadership to proposals to shackle the agency to the congressional appropriations process to radically increasing oversight by other regulators that were less sensitive to consumer issues. We can expect Senator Warren to fight back forcefully against such anti-consumer (and anti-legitimate business) flim-flammery.
Be careful what you wish for, fellas. Republicans sought and succeeded in having Warren passed over as head of the CFPB, but now they have to live with her.
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Warren’s victory is both historic — she will be the first woman to represent the state of Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate — and gratifying — she delivered a shocking 8-point slapdown to her “handsome” opponent and his Wall Street backers. Her victory will come to be seen as a victory for consumers. If her public career is anything like her life up until now, she’ll be an articulate, passionate voice in the Senate. She will make it her mission to fight ferociously against all those who would rig the system against the middle class and enrich themselves at the expense of American families. It should be a wake-up call to anyone who thinks they can put profit or party politics above the good of our nation and the interests of American consumers.
Not every American shares my enthusiasm for the outcome of Election 2012. The American Banker for one, said of the Warren campaign:
“The financial services industry has been watching her race closely, fearful that Warren may continue her harsh attacks on banks as a member of Congress and press for stricter regulations.”
They weren’t just watching, either. According to the LA Times, a whole lot of bankers from across America poured a whole lot of money into her opponent’s campaign. Apparently, the harsh prospect of being held accountable to American consumers was highly motivating — much more so than the harshness of the foreclosures and bankruptcies endured by American homeowners, for instance, to which the mega-banks somehow managed to remain sublimely indifferent.
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Now, despite the money guys putting their (well, someone’s) money where their mouth was, their water-boy, Senator Brown, the once — and soon to be former — champion of the financial services industry, will shortly be consigned to pasture in the rolling hills of Massachusetts, while Senator Warren may well be assigned to the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Many say, and I completely agree, that she’ll be a firewall against efforts to lessen the impact of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an institution created during this Administration to protect American consumers and businesses from the myriad dangers in the consumer financial marketplace.
Without question, her win has the predatory elements in the financial services industry running scared. They should be. Because one thing that Americans should know about Elizabeth Warren by now is that while she is fair, she is also tough when it comes to defending the interests of American consumers. She is the avowed enemy of those who made a killing by tricking and squeezing financially vulnerable Americans through the shilling of predatory loans or the illegal collection of statutorily barred or non-existent debts, racking up profits while steering the economy into a ditch.
“I will always carry your stories with you in my heart,” Warren said in her victory speech. “I won’t just be your senator. I will be your champion.”
You can take that to the bank.
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Image: Tim Pierce, via Flickr
This is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily reflect the views of the company.