Senator Elizabeth Warren will be part of the Democrats’ leadership team in the Senate, the party decided on Thursday morning. At the urging of majority leader Harry Reid, a new position was created for Warren: strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
Several outlets have reported Warren will be a liaison to liberal groups, which will indeed be part of her duties—but a source close to Reid stressed to The Nation that Warren was brought into leadership to help steer policy and communications decisions.
Senate Democrats have a number of important decisions to make as the minority party in the coming two years: which Democratic proposals to highlight, which Republican bills to aggressively oppose and what amendments to propose to must-pass legislation. (Soon-to-be majority leader Mitch McConnell says he will embrace an open amendment process.) Senate Democrats will also be an important potential counterweight to any compromises that President Obama may try to work out with congressional Republicans if Democratic votes are needed.
The source close to Reid said Warren will be a “crucial” voice and vote at the leadership table when strategic decisions are being made. It’s hard not to conclude that progressives will thus have a stronger ability to steer the party’s strategic course going forward.
Warren is an outspoken opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade deal, which is likely to come up for fast-track consideration some time next year. Both McConnell and Obama favor it, while Reid and many (but not all) Senate Democrats oppose fast-track authority.
She also is vocal about closing tax loopholes for corporations and not only protecting Social Security but expanding it. Corporate tax reform is also something Obama and McConnell both ostensibly want, and Social Security could come up during tense budget standoffs between the White House and Congress. (Senate Republicans are already planning a commission to “study options” on Social Security.)
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a major Warren backer, immediately sent a triumphant e-mail blast to one million PCCC members, declaring that “This is a good reminder that when we invest early in progressive leaders, it’s not just about winning elections in the short term—it’s about building power over time.”
Of course, no development involving Warren can happen outside the vacuum of 2016 presidential politics. “Her new role shows that Warren is incredibly influential and is going to be a leader in shaping the Democratic Party and politics in general,” Erica Sagrans, an Obama campaign alum who now runs Ready for Warren, told The Nation the new leadership position “gives her a bigger platform, but an even bigger one would be a presidential run.”