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Warren reflects on her 10 years in Senate

Senator speaks to Banner as she launches reelection bid in Roxbury

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Warren reflects on her 10 years in Senate
Flanked by U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Mayor Michelle Wu, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren greets the audience at Hibernian Hall during the launch of her reelection campaign. BANNER PHOTO

Last Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked off her reelection campaign at Hibernian Hall, striding into the Roxbury auditorium with U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Gov. Maura Healey and Mayor Michelle Wu.

The assemblage of women leaders occupying top local and state seats was unthinkable back in 2012 when Warren, a former Harvard Law professor and political newcomer who headed the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced she was challenging Republican incumbent Scott Brown for the Senate seat.

After winning the seat, Warren has continued to advocate for robust consumer protections, workers’ rights, women’s rights, fair taxation and other progressive causes. Before her April 12 rally, Warren caught up with the Banner for an interview.

The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Democrats in Washington are facing daunting challenges — the Supreme Court challenging abortion rights and affirmative action, Republican-led states restricting access to voting. What power will the Senate have to push back against this conservative agenda?

The Senate has a Democratic majority, which means we can put bills up for votes and we definitely should do that. We should get people on the record, make them vote — but so long as Kevin McCarthy and a handful of Trump extremists are in charge of the House, it’s going to be really hard to move through legislation. There will be places where we will have an opportunity, for example, on banking regulation — something I’m working really hard on. I’ve actually got Republican co-sponsors on some of the plans I have to tighten down on the banking industry. There also will be places where we must act, such as the debt ceiling. Otherwise our country will be plunged into a recession. But in a whole range of areas where the American people want us to act — protecting access to abortion, ensuring the right to vote and to get that vote counted, promoting gun safety — an extremist Republican minority will block us from going forward.

You said it’s important to get people on the record. Why so?

Think of it this way: Roe versus Wade will be on the ballot in 2024. And one of the best ways to demonstrate that is for every Democrat and every Republican who currently sits in Congress to vote on a bill to make Roe the law of the land. That will make it as clear as possible where each elected representative stands, and that means each challenger can say ‘I would do it differently,’ and then voters can pick.

How much difference do you think that that will make in the next congressional elections?

I believe that the extremist Republicans are so far out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans that if Democrats just underscore the key issues, they will factor very heavily into the next election.

You’ve been in office 10 years. To what extent have things gotten better, and to what extent have they gotten worse?

We’ve made it clear to the rest of the Democratic Party and to Republicans that what we stand for is popular across this country. Think about the things that we fought for as progressives — raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion, taxing the rich, helping cancel student loan debt — all of those are popular, and not just on the left. They’re popular all the way across the political spectrum. Anti-corruption is work that I’ve been doing for a long time now, trying to beat back the influence of money and to impose ethics rules on the Supreme Court and on Congress. Those are things that are popular among Democrats, independents and Republicans. So in that sense, the progressive agenda has become a much larger part of America’s agenda. It’s no longer just the progressive point of view on child care or taxing the rich — it’s America’s point of view. That’s the part that’s a lot better.

The part that’s a lot worse is the extremism of the Republican Party. It is now nakedly racist; the party has embraced voter suppression as their only means to hang onto power; they have put an extremist Supreme Court in place that undermines the rule of law and the confidence of the American people that the courts will give anyone a fair hearing. The changes in the party, the changes since January 6, undermine the foundation of our democracy — that’s worse. That’s a whole lot worse.

You’ve focused a lot of attention on consumer protection. In what ways have things improved for the American public?

The good news is we have a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It withstood four years of a Trump administration that tried to do everything possible to strangle that agency. And yet, the agency persisted. It’s strong today and has a terrific director.

The bad news is the Republicans won’t give up on the attacks. And, again, with an extremist Supreme Court there’s a real danger that the agency could be undermined through a decision in the courts that’s simply not grounded in law. So that’s very worrisome. But we’re making government work better for people. That’s true at the CFPB. It’s also true when Congress passed laws last year to get $35-a-month insulin and negotiate Medicare prices and put my 15% minimum corporate tax in place. But at the same time, Republican assaults are becoming more nakedly a power grab with no curbs and no grounding in law. Both of those are happening at the same time.

It’s a moment of hopefulness because we see government working better for people. Think how many people today have diabetes, who instead of paying hundreds of dollars a month, will pay $35 a month to get the help they need. Think how many people today, instead of paying thousands of dollars for hearing aid, or not getting a hearing aid at all because they can’t afford it, will pay only hundreds of dollars. Those are changes that matter in the lives of people every day. But Republicans are not giving up. They’re not listening to what the American people want. They’re just in an all-out assault on democracy in order to seize power. That’s a threat to all of us, whatever, our underlying political persuasions.

Why have you decided to kick off your reelection campaign in Roxbury?

When I first ran for Senate, I came here to Roxbury to ask people to take a chance on someone who had never run for public office, who had no political record, but who promised that if I had the chance, I would go to Washington and fight against a system that is rigged to work for the wealthy and well-connected and against everyone else. People here in Roxbury heard that and partnered up and helped me get elected. I’m deeply grateful for that. And I’ve tried to live by that promise every day in the United States Senate. So now that I’m launching my reelection campaign, I wanted to start it right here in Roxbury and make the same ask again.

roxbury, Senator Elizabeth Warren