Elizabeth Warren ContactBack to top
Address: 317 HSOB, DC 20510
Phone: (617) 565-3170
Address: 15 New Sudbury Street, Boston MA 02203
Phone: (413) 788-2690
Address: 1550 Main Street, Springfield MA 01103
Elizabeth Warren StaffBack to top
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Elizabeth Warren BiographyBack to top
- Elected: 2012, term expires 2018, 1st term.
- State: Massachusetts
- Born: Jun. 22, 1949, Oklahoma City, OK
- Home: Cambridge
University of Houston, B.S., 1970; Rutgers School of Law, J.D., 1976
- Professional Career:
Assistant to the president and special adviser to Treasury secretary, 2010-11; professor, Harvard Law School, 1992-2013; professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1987-1995; professor, University of Texas, 1981-87
- Ethnicity: White/Caucasian
- Family: Married (Bruce Mann); 2 children
Democrat Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who beat Republican Sen. Scott Brown in one of 2012’s marquee races, is the senior senator from Massachusetts. Her toppling of Brown thrilled liberal activists, many of whom see her as a feisty guardian of consumers’ interests, and she became the subject of intense speculation as a progressive possibility for the White House in 2016.
Warren traces her political convictions to both her academic research and her hardscrabble origins. “It’s part biography and part seeing what’s happening,” she said in an interview with National Journal. “Working families have been getting slammed. Washington has been rigged to work for those who can hire an army of lawyers and an army of lobbyists.” While she was growing up, she added, the United States was “a country of expanding opportunities. … Now we talk much more about protecting those who have already made it.”
Warren grew up in Oklahoma City. Her teen years were marred when her father, a maintenance man, suffered a heart attack. His lost pay and his medical bills imperiled the family’s finances; Warren and her mother went to work. But bright young Betsy, as she was known, made it to college on a debate scholarship at the age of 17 and became the first in her family to receive a college diploma.
Warren married young, had two children, picked up a law degree from Rutgers University in 1976, and went through a divorce, earning an appreciation for working moms. She combined her two passions—law and teaching—as an instructor in law at the universities of Houston, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and developed a specialty in bankruptcy law before arriving at Harvard in 1992. For many years, according to The Boston Globe, she was the only public law school graduate on the tenured faculty at august Harvard Law School. Along the way, she remarried, to Bruce Mann, also a Harvard law professor.
Warren was a registered Republican as recently as 1996. But the families she met in her research into bankruptcy changed her life. “These were hard-working, middle-class families who by and large had lost jobs, gotten sick, had family breakups, and that’s what was driving them over the edge financially. It changed my vision,” Warren said at an appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2007.
Warren’s expertise in bankruptcy issues brought her to Washington and public policy, and the expert became an advocate. She went on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, testified on Capitol Hill, wrote articles and books, served in advisory capacities, and raised alarms about the big financial firms and banks and their lobbyists. Warren helped lead the unsuccessful fight against the 2005 bankruptcy bill, a law that made it tougher for consumers to obtain the protection of the courts. In 2008, amid the great financial crash, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named Warren to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and in 2010 and 2011—as an assistant to President Obama and special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner—she helped design and launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a legacy of the Dodd-Frank legislation. Her work earned Warren the enmity of the financial industry, and Republicans blocked her expected appointment as the bureau’s first director.
Warren’s experiences in Washington led her to the Senate race, where she challenged Brown for the seat he had won in a 2010 special election after the death of Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. She became a national sensation when a speech she gave, exhorting wealthy Americans to recognize the debt they owe to the community and “pay forward for the next kid who comes along,” went viral. Warren became a “Doonesbury” cartoon heroine, a liberal darling, and got a prime-time speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic convention.
Brown had shocked Democrats when he won a January 2010 special election to succeed the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, a revered figure in Massachusetts and national politics. He received substantial support from tea party interests who were upset about Obama’s health care overhaul, and his election ended the Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority in the Senate. But he steered clear of the tea party in compiling a determinedly centrist record, voting to repeal the ban on openly gay service members and for the Dodd-Frank financial services overhaul. In his campaign, he stressed his bipartisanship and independence from his party’s leaders. Because he was well-liked, Warren seemed to struggle to put a dent in his support when her message was aimed only at him. In September, though, she adjusted her focus and began asserting that a vote for Brown was a vote for a Republican Senate majority, a sentiment that resonated with voters.
Warren held her own in debates with Brown who, recognizing he was vulnerable, repeatedly censured Warren for claiming that she had Cherokee ancestry. It was a ruse, Brown’s supporters said, that Warren used to exploit affirmative action plans, an allegation she denied. Warren won the election, 54% to 46%. She held him to 51% in his base in Norfolk County, southwest of Boston, while getting 73% in Boston’s Suffolk County and 56% in adjoining Middlesex County, the state’s largest. Both candidates agreed to ban outside spending, but each still took in lots of money: Brown raised $28 million (and spent $35 million), while Warren raised and spent more than $42 million.
In the Senate, Warren vowed to tackle taxes, entitlements, and education. “I am a woman of big appetites,” she said, when asked about the ambitious agenda. “A little wonky, but of big appetites nonetheless.” She sought a seat on the Banking Committee, and financial industry executives openly crusaded against the idea, citing what they called her hostility to Wall Street. But her liberal allies pushed back vigorously, and she was named to the committee.
On the panel, Warren joined a legislative push for an overhaul of the Glass-Steagall Act, introducing a bill to separate traditional banks that offer checking and savings accounts from riskier financial services, such as investment banking and swaps dealing. The measure picked up the support of Arizona Republican John McCain, but other GOP lawmakers wouldn't touch it and it was languishing as of July 2014. Her pointed grillings of top Treasury Department and Federal Reserve officials on that subject and others won her widespread attention on YouTube and more admiration from the left; The New Republic in April 2013 dubbed her a "Regulatory Rock Star."
In her first year, Warren was the Senate's 31st most liberal member, according to National Journal rankings. She was fairly in line with her party on economic and social issues, but showed a bit more independence on foreign-policy matters. She was among four Democrats who joined most Republicans in November 2013 in opposing a failed amendment that would have allowed the transfer of inmates housed in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay only after the administration submits a plan on where the detainees would be housed within the United States.
By 2014, with Hillary Clinton dominating the Democratic discussion about the presidential race, the public and media pressure began building on Warren to throw her hat in the ring. She published a book, A Fighting Chance, that packaged her philosophy in a way that only fed that speculation. At the liberal Netroots Nation conference in July, supporters handed out hats, signs and bumper stickers to that effect, and she brought the crowd to its feet with her angry denunciations of big business. "A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested. The game is rigged!” she said. A draft-Warren movement quickly ramped up.
But Warren repeatedly expressed zero interest in running. "I had to work really hard to get here [to Congress]," she told Esquire. "I said, 'If I get to the United States Senate, I'm going to use that opportunity to work for the middle class and for working families every chance I get.'" Political observers confirmed that she had done none of the normal spade work in preparation for a presidential race, such as collecting the contacts of wealthy donors, and she kept the news media at arm's length -- so much so that The Boston Globe ran a front-page article on why she wouldn't follow the usual Senate practice of answering reporters' questions in Capitol hallways. Unlike Obama, who drew similar speculation when he came to the chamber eight years earlier, she was determined to keep the focus squarely on her legislative work.Show Less