Almost immediately after Elizabeth Warren was elected to the United States Senate, speculation began about whether she would receive a prestigious spot on the Banking Committee. This is a possibility that makes sense given her experience, and terrifies the financial sector: “she will be the banks’ worst nightmare,” an attorney who works in the industry told The Wall Street Journal Friday.
Her colleagues seem to be behind the idea—Senate aides told Reuters there was a “good, but not guaranteed” chance she would get that committee assignment. On Friday afternoon, I spoke with Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the second-highest-ranking Democrat on the panel, and he strongly endorsed her selection.
Reed stressed that it’s first up to Warren if she wants to be on the committee—she has not actually said that she does. He noted that, as one of the nation’s leading experts on bankruptcy law, she might find the Judiciary Committee equally compelling. “She has some tough choices to make about where she can best use her talents,” he said.
But should Warren choose Senate Banking, Reed is behind her. “I can’t think of anybody that’s come to the Senate with thirty years of detailed knowledge of the industry from the perspective of teaching at law school and doing many other things, and then serving in the drafting of significant aspects of Dodd-Frank from the administration standpoint. So she comes prepared,” he said. “It’s really an abundance of intellectual riches.”
Reed said this suggested Warren would not be susceptible to strong lobbying efforts from the financial services industry. “In some respects it’s better to be dealing with someone who is knowledgeable than someone who does not have that kind of depth of knowledge, and might be swayed not by the facts and substance but simply by the last person to see them,” he said. “She brings a great deal of knowledge to the table. I don’t sense her as someone who is going to leap before she looks very carefully at every issue from every perspective.”
Reed said he expects the committee to tackle several crucial issues in the upcoming Congress, from dealing with the GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to dealing with the implementation of the Dodd-Frank legislation, including the Volcker Rule, setting up and monitoring clearing platforms, derivatives regulation, and the Financial Services Oversight Council.
It will be interesting and perhaps a bit awkward for Warren to take a seat on that committee next to so many Republicans who spend the last several years attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Warren’s interim leadership of the new agency. But Reed doesn’t believe that would be an issue. “I think the working relationship would be fine. She’s now a United States senator,” he said. “I think there’s a degree of both collegiality and decorum even in these difficult times.”
For more on Massachusetts’ senator-elect, read E.J. Graff’s “Elizabeth Warren Heads to Washington.”.