elizabeth warren

RI gaining clout in Congress while Massachusetts loses it

July 29th, 2013 at 12:17 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Michael Mullen, Jack Reed, Edward KennedySurveying the diminished clout of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, Stonehill College’s Peter Ubertaccio writes for The Boston Globe:

The Bay State now ranks last in Senate seniority, and no member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation holds a committee chair or leadership position in either the Senate or the House. For the first time since early 1919, no member of our House delegation has served with a speaker from Massachusetts. …

Senator Edward Kennedy’s death in 2009 ruptured an important historical axis upon which the Commonwealth so depended for its influence. …

Why does this matter? Seniority, leadership, and clout bring two key benefits: prioritizing federal dollars and articulating political values. …

There is no easy solution to our dilemma. It requires the continued cultivation of political leaders who see their futures within the institutions they now call home.

This is a real challenge for Massachusetts. When I asked U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in January what makes an effective senator, his first response was: “Seniority, which you can’t do much about – it is what it is – but as time goes by you need to be ramping it up the match your seniority.”


Whitehouse, Warren back up Reed in bid to cap student rates

July 23rd, 2013 at 1:21 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is getting some backup from two of his fellow Southern New England Democrats as he battles to change a bipartisan compromise on student-loan rates.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday sent email blasts to their campaign supporters in a bid to rally support for Reed, who is seeking to amend the loan legislation to cap students’ interest rates at 6.8%, lower than the 8.25% currently envisioned. The bill could be voted on as soon as today.

“Senator Jack Reed’s amendment is the only plan on the table right now that guarantees student loan interest rates won’t skyrocket above their current levels,” Warren wrote in an email pushing subscribers to sign up on Reed’s website in support. “We need to pass this amendment for our kids and grandkids.” The subject line of Warren’s email said: “The whole system stinks.”

“Unfortunately, our opponents would rather profit off our students than invest in them – so Jack is going to need all of us to stand with him to win this fight,” Whitehouse wrote in his email. “I’ve joined a group of Senators to work to pass Senator Reed’s amendment. But we need your help before this week’s vote.”

The emails are another sign of the increasing closeness of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts U.S. Senate delegations now that Warren and the newly elected Ed Markey have joined Reed and Whitehouse in Washington. All four are down-the-line liberals, and they share many of the same policy passions, notably financial regulation for Reed and Warren and climate change for Whitehouse and Markey.

• Related: Jack Reed pushing to overhaul interest rates on student loans (May 9)

Reed pushing to overhaul interest rates on student loans

May 9th, 2013 at 6:40 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

jack_reed_student_loans_3-13-2012_APPhilip Elliott reports for the AP:

[A] collection of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday renewed their push to keep rates low but also backed interest rates that were based on the markets. Their plan would base rates on a 91-day Treasury bill and allow the Education Department to add to that to pay for the administration of loan programs.

“The student loan interest rate offered by the government shouldn’t be needlessly high, it should be based on actual costs,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said in introducing the plan.

The versions from both parties include a proposal that was central to Obama’s budget: interest rates would shift based on financial markets. …

Basing student loans on 10-year Treasury notes’ rates would, at least for now, offer a deal to some students. … That’s not to say, however, the rates would be a good deal forever. If Treasury increases its rates, students’ loan rates would rise, too.

For context, under the current system Congress sets the actual numerical interest rate on student loans – that’s why the rate is currently set by law at 3.8% and is (again) scheduled to rise to 6.8% on July 1. (Hence the growing focus on the issue at the moment.)

Reed’s bill would have Congress stop setting the rate by statute and start basing it on market movements instead, as outlined above. However – unlike similar proposals from President Obama and House Republicans – Reed’s bill would set a maximum cap on rates: 6.8% for subsidized loans and 8.25% for unsubsidized loans. It would also allow students to refinance their loans at a lower rate.

Why the cap? According to Reed, it’s necessary because someday interest rates will return to a higher level.

Reed’s staff says college graduates in the Class of 2007 would have paid almost 8% and the Class of 1981 would have paid almost 17% if the House GOP proposal had been law at the time. Using CBO economic forecasts, they project rates will be back above 8% by 2018 under the Obama/GOP proposals.

The White House and Republicans argue Reed’s proposal could raise costs for borrowers or force other taxpayers to subsidize student loans. “In order to have a cap, we would have to charge students more in order to hedge against the possibility that rates would go up to unmanageable levels in the future,” an administration official told reporters April 10.

While a capped market rate is Reed’s vision for a permanent fix on student loans, in the meantime he’s introduced a bill to freeze current rates for two more years while Congress comes up with a long-term resolution. “Some who claim it is important to avoid burdening our children and grandchildren with national debt are all too willing to bury these young people in student debt,” Reed said in a statement Thursday.

Reed isn’t the only local senator arguing for a fresh approach to student loans. Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday introduced a bill to let students borrow at the same rate that big banks get from the Federal Reserve’s discount window.

(photo: Manuel Balce Caneta/AP)

RI delegation uniting on Wednesday – to fight Obama

May 8th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Three of the four members of Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation will take aim Wednesday at someone who’s an unusual target for them: President Obama.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline are among the eight members of Congress co-hosting a summit on Capitol Hill to criticize a proposal in Obama’s latest budget that would trim Social Security benefits by switching to a measure of inflation known as “chained CPI.”

Rhode Island’s entire delegation slammed the policy when it emerged, and Cicilline has garnered national attention for introducing a resolution that would have Congress express formal disapproval of chained CPI. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are also among the summit’s hosts, giving it a decidedly New England flavor.

There were 207,122 Rhode Island residents receiving Social Security benefits in December 2011, the most recent month for which figures are available – meaning nearly 20% of state residents are on Social Security. Two-thirds of Rhode Island’s beneficiaries were 65 or older, while 35,905 were disabled and 15,704 were children. The Rhode Islanders’ combined Social Security benefits totaled $236 million that month.

The congressional event at 12:30 p.m. will be streamed live online by Strengthen Social Security, a coalition of unions and progressive groups that supports increasing benefits.

• Related: RI congressional delegation slams Obama over Social Security (April 10)

Elizabeth Warren coming to RI April 29 for Jack Reed fundraiser

April 15th, 2013 at 11:51 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

CFPB_warren_reedProgressive favorite U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is coming to Rhode Island later this month to raise money for the re-election campaign of her fellow Democrat Jack Reed.

Warren will be the special guest at a fundraiser on April 29 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Rotunda Room at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, according to an invitation sent Monday. Suggested contributions range from $100 for individuals to $1,000 for hosts.

The fundraiser sports an all-female host committee co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. Maryellen Butke, Helena Foulkes, Sandra Whitehouse and Myrth York are among the hosts.

Warren and Reed have a bit of a mutual admiration society. Reed successfully pushed to get Warren, a vocal Wall Street critic, appointed to serve with him on the Senate Banking Committee, while Warren has praised his work on financial issues. Reed is up for re-election next year.

Warren defeated Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown just last November, but she’s already Massachusetts’ senior senator now that John Kerry has resigned to serve as President Obama’s secretary of state. Democratic Congressman Ed Markey is the frontrunner in the campaign to succeed Kerry.

(photo: Warren’s office)

Elizabeth Warren goes from blogging about Senate to joining it

January 3rd, 2013 at 1:04 pm by under Nesi's Notes

​By Ted Nesi

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Seven years ago Elizabeth Warren was blogging for a liberal website as the U.S. Senate debated a tough new bankruptcy bill, pointing out her disagreements with the lawmakers. On Thursday, she was sworn in as the Senate’s newest member.

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Joe Kennedy III met his wife in Warren’s Harvard Law class

January 3rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

WPRI.com’s Ted Nesi is reporting from Capitol Hill this week.

WASHINGTON – Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren’s class was an important one for future congressman Joe Kennedy III, and not just because he and his teacher would soon be serving together in Congress.

Kennedy, 32, met his wife, Lauren Birchfield, when they were both students in Warren’s class. “He sat in the front row, on my left, and Lauren was in the back row on my right,” Warren recalled Thursday in an interview with WPRI.com.

Kennedy and Birchfield married last month. “Joe tells me there are five couples from that class, and I take credit for all of them!” Warren said.

“She was and is an amazing professor,” Kennedy, who received his law degree in 2009, said in a separate interview. “There’s a reason she always wins the best-teacher award.”

He recalled: “I’d get lost in the intricacies of the bankruptcy code, and I’d go up to her office, and this was when she was the overseer of TARP – and she’d say, ‘Yes, senator, yes, senator, I need to go because I have a student here.’”

“He was a good student,” Warren said, laughing.


Whitehouse optimistic on filibuster, wary about ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

November 14th, 2012 at 7:07 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Fresh off his re-election victory, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says he’s optimistic the Senate will approve new rules making it harder for Republicans to block bills, and he’s prepared to break with President Obama on a budget deal if it cuts Social Security or Medicare benefits.

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Jack Reed: Put Elizabeth Warren on the Banking Committee

November 12th, 2012 at 10:07 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

There’s a debate brewing about whether Democrats will put newly elected Massachusetts U.S. Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren on the Senate Banking Committee. The argument in favor: Warren knows a lot about the finance industry. The argument against: the finance industry despises her.

Now the Banking Committee’s No. 2 Democrat – and its likely future chairman – Jack Reed is weighing in “strongly” as a proponent of having Warren join the panel, George Zornick reports for The Nation:

“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.

For now Reed is still the No. 2 on Banking, as South Dakota U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson retains the chairmanship. Reed says they’ll probably tackle Fannie and Freddie, Dodd-Frank, the Volcker Rule, clearinghouses, derivatives and the Financial Services Oversight Council next year.

Elizabeth Warren hires Whitehouse chief of staff Mindy Myers

November 9th, 2011 at 4:51 pm by under Nesi's Notes

The Boston Globe’s Noah Bierman has the details. Myers ran Richard Blumenthal’s victorious Senate bid last year.

Mass. Senate race heats up as Elizabeth Warren eyes Brown

August 12th, 2011 at 10:24 am by under Nesi's Notes

Elizabeth Warren, right, with President Obama

So far, Rhode Island’s marquee 2012 race looks like it’s going to be Cicilline-Doherty (or Cicilline-Loughlin, though that would be a rerun). Across the border in Massachusetts, Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is running for a full term after his surprise victory last year, and the Wrentham resident is going to be tough to beat.

But Democrats aren’t giving up on reclaiming Ted Kennedy’s old seat, and they think Harvard Law’s Elizabeth Warren may be their best bet, The Washington Post reports:

The high-profile consumer advocate just stepped down from her post as special adviser to the president in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. …

A Massachusetts Democrat who is assisting Warren confirmed that the former administration official will be spending the next few weeks listening to residents across the state. She’ll make a decision on her future plans after Labor Day. …

Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan — the former chief of staff and former communications director, respectively, for Gov. Deval Patrick (D) — are assisting Warren in her decision-making. …

Warren is considered by many to be the best candidate to take on Brown, although there are a number of less well-known challengers already in the Senate primary, including Newton Mayor Setti Warren, CityYear founder Alan Khazei and activist Bob Massie.

Reed talks Elizabeth Warren and the CFPB

August 17th, 2010 at 3:33 pm by under General Talk

Elizabeth Warren (via Harvard)

A hot topic in liberal circles these days is whether President Obama will appoint Elizabeth Warren, the crusading Harvard Law bankruptcy expert, to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in the financial reform law signed last month.

The independent agency – which has its roots in an article Warren herself wrote back in 2007 – will be consumers’ watchdog when it comes to financial products like mortgages and credit cards. Here’s a description of it from The Wall Street Journal:

Once under way, the agency is likely to be the most visible manifestation to consumers from the extensive financial-regulatory legislation expected to clear Congress next week. It will write rules on checking accounts, credit cards and mortgages. It will field complaints from the public about lending practices. It will enforce its rules across the economy, from big banks to credit counselors—though not auto dealers, which won’t fall under the agency’s supervision, after much lobbying.

Warren’s potential nomination has become a cause célèbre in recent weeks among progressives disappointed in the president’s record on everything from the public option to Afghanistan.

This afternoon I spoke with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who helped craft the financial reform law from his perch on the Senate Banking Committee, and here’s what he had to say about Warren and the other names floated:

I think she’s terrific. I think she’s been very, very good with these issues. It’s up to the president. The names that I’ve heard – Gene Kimmelman, Warren and Michael Barr – are all first-rate. I know Michael and Elizabeth very well – I don’t know Kimmelman [but he's heard good things]. … Any one of those could be a very effective head of the CFPB.