In spite of all her credentials — chair of the Congressional TARP oversight panel, special adviser and spearhead for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Harvard law professor — there is a good chance that incoming Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will not get the committee seat that makes the most sense for her.
Which seat might that be? The Senate Banking Committee.
Right now, there are two Democratic seats open on that committee, since Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl and Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka are retiring. However, committee seats are usually given out by seniority, with the plum spots given to senators who have been in office longer. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chris Coons, of New York and Delaware, respectively, apparently want those spots and have been in office longer than the newly elected Warren.
The reality is that the seniority rule for committee seats is not hard and fast. What it really boils down to is whether or not Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants her on that committee or not.
What makes things complicated is Warren’s reputation for being tough on big banks, particularly while overseeing the TARP bailout. Staffers who serve senators on the banking committee apparently dislike her, and lobbyists have been suggesting her as a better fit for the Judiciary Committee, which handles bankruptcy oversight.
Those staffers and lobbyists work very closely together, with many former staffers moving on to become lobbyists later. There is a lot of incentive for both sides to maintain the status quo, and Warren could potentially threaten that.
We will have to wait until next year to find out if their efforts succeed, as it is unlikely Reid will make committee assignments until then.
– Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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