Elizabeth Warren might just be the motivation that conservatives need to get behind the re-election campaign of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). Until now, the Tea Party activists that helped push Brown to an historic victory in 2010 had been grumbling about Brown’s leftish voting record. But Warren’s embrace of tax-and-spend policies, and her disregard for constitutional checks and balances, are giving conservatives new reasons to care.
I once admired Warren–and told her so. I was a student at Harvard Law School when she was plucked from her teaching job to serve as the congressional “oversight czar” for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In that role, Warren stood out for her unique willingness to criticize Obama administration appointees, notably treasury secretary Tim Geithner, for failing to comply with basic transparency and reporting requirements.
Warren had also been extremely popular among her students–so much so that our graduating class awarded her the Sacks-Freund Teaching Award in 2009, even though she hadn’t taught since the previous fall. I hadn’t had the privilege of being in one of her classes, but I congratulated her on the award, and told her that as a conservative, I felt she was speaking for me, too, in holding the Obama administration accountable.
But something seemed to change once she joined the administration. In September 2010, President Obama appointed Warren to launch the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Warren’s ideas had helped inspire the creation of the CFPB, which had been established by the controversial Dodd-Frank legislation. Republicans objected to the CFPB’s great powers and independence from congressional oversight.
As C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel for President George H.W. Bush, noted: “The director of the consumer bureau is independent of both the Federal Reserve, which houses and funds it, and the White House. Dodd-Frank precludes the House and Senate Appropriations Committees from reviewing the bureau’s budget.” The courts were also required by Dodd-Frank to accept the director’s statutory interpretations.
In their zeal to expand government’s regulatory power over Wall Street, the Democrat-controlled Congress and the Obama administration made the CFPB an unconstitutional bureaucratic beast. Warren was clearly Obama’s favored appointee to lead the CFPB, but Republicans made it clear that they would not approve her until the glaring problems with the CFPB’s power and budget were resolved within traditional constitutional limits.
Rather than face a confirmation fight over Warren, Obama made her a special assistant to the president and an adviser to Geithner. Warren ought to have declined the post, as it had been designed to circumvent congressional authority. Instead, she accepted it–and, worse, the former congressional “oversight czar” began to resist congressional oversight, complaining on one occasion that a hearing was cutting into her schedule.
Having begun in Washington as a tough watchdog, Warren soon came to symbolize executive overreach. Democrats are excited to back a candidate who will fight for their belief that redistributive government trumps individual freedom and constitutional limits. That makes her a perfect voice for the Occupy movement, which she claimed to have inspired. Sadly, it also makes her a poor choice to serve in the U.S. Senate.