- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2014

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer used to be considered one of the Senate’s most liberal members until Sen. Elizabeth Warren burst onto the scene, making him look moderate by comparison and convincing Republicans that he’s the go-to guy for making deals across the aisle.

Republicans suddenly find themselves rooting for Mr. Schumer as he and Ms. Warren vie to be the voice of Senate Democrats in confronting the new GOP-run Congress.

“I think he is placing himself in a more moderate position,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and incoming chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance. “In my opinion, Schumer is somebody you can work with. He’s a smart guy and, I think, if the mantle is transferred to Schumer, he’s the one person who is open enough to make deals with Republicans.”

He described Ms. Warren as an “avant garde liberal.”

“She doesn’t try to disguise it. She admits it,” said Mr. Hatch. “I like her, but liking her doesn’t mean I agree with her. I like everybody. That is one of my weaknesses.”

Ms. Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, rose to national prominence championing the left’s Occupy Wall Street crowd. She quickly advanced from a Harvard law professor whose brainchild was the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to become a White House adviser and then landed a U.S. Senate seat.

Progressives have prodded her to run for president in 2016 as a liberal alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the undisputed front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Ms. Warren has repeatedly denied a White House run but also has not strongly discouraged her supporters from promoting it.

“I am not running for president,” Ms. Warren said repeatedly Monday in an interview with National Public Radio.

When pressed about only using the present tense and not saying “never,” Ms. Warren responded sharply: “I am not running for president. You want me to put an exclamation point at the end?”

That won’t be enough to convince liberal activists that she’s staying on the sidelines in 2016.

“It is time for Democrats to remold the party around Elizabeth Warren’s big economic populist ideas — like breaking up ‘too big to fail’ banks, expanding Social Security and making college way more affordable,” Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, declared Monday. “When Republicans propose bad ideas next year, the solution is not to merely obstruct or find lowest common denominator solutions. The way for Democrats to inspire the public is to give Americans the debate about big ideas that we deserve — and that means following Elizabeth Warren’s lead.”

The liberal group MoveOn.org is heavily invested in a “Run Warren Run” campaign, including a draft-Warren rally that The Wall Street Journal reported was scheduled for Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ms. Warren’s populist appeal also earned her a spot on the Senate Democratic leadership team, as the party’s old guard sought to appease rank-and-file members angry about losing the Senate majority in the November elections. She was named a special adviser to help craft the message at the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), which is chaired by Mr. Schumer, the chamber’s No. 3 Democratic leader.

That set up a struggle between Ms. Warren and Mr. Schumer. Soon after Ms. Warren got the job, Mr. Schumer quietly added the more moderate Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, to the committee as a counterbalance.

Some longtime Senate liberals bristled at the jockeying between Ms. Warren and Mr. Schumer.

“I don’t think of my message as being anybody’s message but my own,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a die-hard liberal. “Democrats are generally unified that Wall Street can’t run this place. Most of us recognize that the country is still in economic trouble because of Wall Street greed. We’ve pretty much paid a price for it.”

Mr. Schumer has strenuously insisted that there is no friction between Ms. Warren and himself.

“We are very excited to have her as a part of our leadership team,” he said.

Ms. Warren did not respond to questions about her relationship with Senate leaders.

Her power to marshal liberal forces and steer the debate on Capitol Hill was on display last week as she rallied opposition to a $1.1 trillion spending bill, tempting a government shutdown over a provision in the omnibus bill that would lift a ban on banks trading in derivatives, or high-risk loans, that are federally insured.

The bill passed despite Ms. Warren’s insurrection against her party’s leaders, including President Obama, who backed the spending package. But Ms. Warren still managed to mount a significant challenge, including convincing several moderate Democrats to join her failed attempt to filibuster the legislation.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III, one of the chamber’s most conservative Democrats, said he backed the filibuster because he shared Ms. Warren’s opposition to loosening banking rules imposed after the 2008 financial crisis.

“I have a lot of the same beliefs. We just want a level playing field. You know, the table has been tilted and gives advantages to people who don’t need advantages,” said Mr. Manchin. “I’m sure on other issues she’s much farther left than I would ever be, but on that and on fiscal and financial issues [we agree].”

In the NPR interview, Ms. Warren warned that her rebellion against the spending bill was a “warning shot” in her continued battle against Wall Street and its allies in Congress.

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