White House

The White House Is Feuding With Elizabeth Warren—Again

The debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the latest chapter in the White House’s relationship with the progressive favorite.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks during a presser to announce his nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (not pictured) as head of the in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (L), and Special Advisor on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Elizabeth Warren (C) listen in the Rose Garden at the White House on July 18, 2011 in Washington, DC. The new bureau was created under a reform bill last year and intends to make basic financial practices such as taking out a mortgage or loan more clear and transparent to consumers while weeding out unfair lending practices. 
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Eric Garcia
March 12, 2015, 11:14 a.m.

The White House is again try­ing to quell con­cerns made by Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren about a cer­tain as­pect of a pro­posed free trade agree­ment, widen­ing an ex­ist­ing gap in Pres­id­ent Obama and War­ren’s long, com­plic­ated re­la­tion­ship.

Dur­ing a Wed­nes­day con­fer­ence call or­gan­ized by the Al­li­ance for Justice, the Mas­sachu­setts Demo­crat warned against part of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship called the In­vestor-State Dis­pute Set­tle­ment that would al­low in­di­vidu­als to sue for­eign gov­ern­ments of coun­tries where they in­vest. War­ren said this as­pect of the trade agree­ment could al­low mul­tina­tion­al cor­por­a­tions to use such leg­al ac­tion to weak­en U.S. law.

The White House has said it is pro­mot­ing stronger safe­guards and trans­par­ency in ne­go­ti­ations on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. But War­ren cri­ti­cized the lack of trans­par­ency from the ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has said it is put­ting in place safe­guards.

(RE­LATED: White House Gives Mod­er­ate Demo­crats Ex­tra At­ten­tion on Free Trade)

“They re­fuse to make the text of the trade agree­ment pub­lic,” War­ren said on the con­fer­ence call. “If they are sure that they fixed this prob­lem, they need to show us the new pro­vi­sions, not wave their hands around and say don’t worry.”

The Hill re­por­ted that after the call, the White House re­leased a fact sheet ex­plain­ing that the U.S. is tak­ing steps to en­sure the trade agree­ments it is part of are craf­ted to pre­serve its and oth­er gov­ern­ments’ abil­it­ies to make reg­u­la­tions.

This isn’t the first time the White House and War­ren have clashed over the TPP. In Feb­ru­ary, War­ren wrote an op-ed in The Wash­ing­ton Post say­ing the In­vestor-State Dis­pute Set­tle­ments could weak­en labor and en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions, which promp­ted the ad­min­is­tra­tion to say it would not un­der­mine U.S. sov­er­eignty or grant new rights to mul­tina­tion­al com­pan­ies.

White House-War­ren spats go bey­ond trade reg­u­la­tions. Late last year, War­ren cri­ti­cized the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nom­in­a­tion of Ant­o­nio Weiss, a former banker at Laz­ard, for un­der­sec­ret­ary for do­mest­ic fin­ance at the Treas­ury De­part­ment. Weiss ul­ti­mately pulled him­self out of the nom­in­at­ing pro­cess and in­stead be­came a coun­selor to Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jack Lew.

(RE­LATED: Don’t Be­lieve the Latest Eliza­beth War­ren-Hil­lary Clin­ton Poll)

There’s a long, tangled his­tory between War­ren and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which brought her in­to polit­ics to be­gin with. Pre­vi­ously a pro­fess­or at Har­vard Law School, War­ren was tapped to lead the Con­gres­sion­al Over­sight Pan­el as part of the 2008 bank bail­out. War­ren also served as an Obama as­sist­ant in 2010 for the cre­ation of the Con­sumer Fin­an­cial Pro­tec­tion Bur­eau cre­ated by the Dodd-Frank fin­an­cial re­form law, which War­ren sup­por­ted. Faced with Sen­ate op­pos­i­tion, Obama chose to nom­in­ate Richard Cordray to be the bur­eau’s dir­ect­or over War­ren.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has also teamed up with War­ren when Obama called on the De­part­ment of Labor to move for­ward on rule­mak­ing re­gard­ing a “fi­du­ciary stand­ard” for re­tire­ment ad­visers. Obama said the rule would re­quire re­tire­ment ad­visers to put their cli­ents’ in­terest be­fore their own in­terest.

The fact the White House keeps re­spond­ing to War­ren shows the un­easy po­s­i­tion the White House is in. On one hand, War­ren has con­tin­ued to cri­ti­cize the ad­min­is­tra­tion. But on the oth­er, the ad­min­is­tra­tion knows she rep­res­ents a wing of the Demo­crat­ic party that they’ll need to push their own in­cent­ives and help the party suc­ceed bey­ond 2016.


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