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Warren Brings Out the Base for Both Parties

She’s neither a presidential nominee nor a Senate candidate, but Congressional Democrats are using Elizabeth Warren’s name to rally their base.

Warren has become a symbol of the fight between Republicans and Democrats for control in the confirmation process and particularly the debate surrounding the newly created watchdog agency the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Democrats argue the GOP is playing partisan politics and have gone so far as to accuse Republicans of gender discrimination to explain the strong opposition to Warren.

Republicans have vowed to block her from being confirmed to the post — if she’s ever nominated — because she has built a career on consumer advocacy from her perch as a Harvard University professor.

“Warren has proven to be a perfect champion for progressives and formidable foil for conservatives,” a Democratic strategist said. “She deserves a lot of credit for weathering all of the attacks from Wall Street and Republicans. They underestimated her toughness and willingness to fight back.”

She will face more attacks next month when she goes for a second round before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is reviewing the authorities of the new financial agency. President Barack Obama further inflamed the GOP by giving Warren authority over the CFPB through a White House post that does not need Senate confirmation.

Her most recent encounter with the House GOP swung from testy to outright confrontational.

It doesn’t help matters for Warren in her relationship with Republicans that she was a top negotiator during last year’s debate over the financial regulatory reform bill that became law and previously was in charge of Congressional oversight for the Troubled Asset Relief Program that conservatives loathe. Democrats, stoking the fury, frequently tout her background championing consumer issues and her humble upbringing in Oklahoma.

While 44 Republican Senators signed a letter last month vowing to block Warren or anyone else from leading the consumer agency, Democrats held strong. Sen. Benjamin Cardin said Obama “needs to weigh a recess appointment” and refused to consider another candidate for the agency.

“She’s ideal for the position, and no one has explained to me why she shouldn’t be confirmed. She should be confirmed,” the Maryland Democrat said Tuesday. “I don’t want to give up.”

Cardin’s sentiment was echoed at a press conference last week, where several House Democrats, who have no say in presidential nominations, escalated the rhetoric by calling for Obama to make Warren a recess appointment. Some even suggested GOP lawmakers oppose her because she’s a woman.

“The finance world has been thought to be a male-dominated world, and this very capable woman fits the bill perfectly, and they’re having a hard time seeing that,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), the only woman serving on the Banking Committee, denounced that claim, and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who sits on the Financial Services panel, called it “bunk.” Nevertheless, Capito noted that Warren’s name draws strong reactions from both sides of the aisle.

“Any time you’re standing up to something this large with this kind of reach, we should be questioning it,” she said in an interview. “Has it gone over the top? I think potentially it could. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.”

Warren will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform panel next month; the hearing was scheduled after Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) blasted her for not responding to Members’ questions at a May 24 hearing before the panel. Warren and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) engaged in a heated exchange during that hearing, which sparked a fiery response from progressive followers. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee sent an email to supporters the day after the hearing calling for Warren to be a recess appointment.

Some Democrats acknowledge Warren would have a hard and perhaps impossible time winning confirmation to the CFPB post, if she were nominated, and they instead suggest she launch a Senate bid against Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R). One Democratic source said she remains the favorite among top political and White House advisers who maintain a statewide bid by Warren would help galvanize the Democratic base nationwide during the same election cycle in which Obama will vie for a second term.

So far, Warren has been mum on whether she would run for the Senate. A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee declined to comment on the subject, and at a press conference two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kept his comments brief.

“I’ve known Elizabeth Warren,” the Nevada Democrat said. “She’s been to see me on a number of occasions. I’ve been to see her. We’ve talked about issues dealing with the bill that was passed, the Dodd- Frank bill. And all those conversations and any other conversations I have with her and most anyone else I think should be private, and that’s the way I’m going to keep it.”

Financial Services ranking member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said he would prefer to see Warren lead the CFPB rather than run for the Senate. He said White House officials have indicated Warren will eventually be a recess appointment, although the outspoken lawmaker said Obama should have done so earlier this year.

Frank also said having Warren stand for an official floor vote in the Senate would be helpful to the party, even if she was rejected.

“If she were in fact rejected by the Senate, which I would hope she wouldn’t be, that would make her a hero,” he said, adding that he hopes such a threat would be enough to deter Republicans from filibustering her.

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