* Senate aide says Warren can probably get banking panel
* Warren pushed for new consumer protection agency
* Senate aides say there is still no guarantees on Warren
* Other Senate Democrats said to be vying for banking spots
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON, Nov 8 The chances are good, but not
guaranteed, that Elizabeth Warren will secure a highly coveted
seat on the Senate Banking Committee, a move that would
dramatically elevate her campaign against Wall Street excess.
Senior Senate Democratic aides, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said the Massachusetts senator-elect is a logical fit
for the committee, even though it is rare for a freshman senator
to get such a plum assignment.
If she gets the slot, Warren's bully pulpit would be
replaced with real power.
The bipartisan panel can greatly influence policy decisions
through its oversight of financial services, international
trade, insurance, housing, securities and economic issues.
Warren, who has called for breaking up the big banks, could
move to block legislative tweaks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank
financial oversight law that would blunt the full impact of
She would also be able to forcefully push for regulators to
use all the powers available to them to write strict
interpretations of rules.
That could mean stronger curbs on Wall Street trading,
higher capital buffers and rules that would compel mega-banks to
A spokeswoman for Warren did not respond to numerous
requests for comment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likely won't start
considering committee assignments until the new year. Still, one
Senate Democratic aide predicted that if Warren wants to be on
the banking panel, the odds are good she'll get it.
"The leadership and committee chairmen usually work together
to try to accommodate incoming senators' preferences, within
reason," the aide told Reuters.
"If Senator-elect Warren indicates she'd like to serve on
the banking committee, given her prominent work on those issues,
she would certainly have a very good shot."
ENEMY NO. 1
Warren, a Harvard law professor, is credited as the prime
architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency
created by Dodd-Frank.
She rose to national prominence in 2008 when she was named
chief watchdog of TARP, the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the
U.S. financial system.
She made regular television appearances railing against Wall
Street and mega-banks, a habit that made her bankers' public
enemy No. 1.
Warren then became the acting director of the CFPB, but
President Barack Obama dropped the idea of formally nominating
her for the post, in large part because there was only a slim
chance that the Senate she is now joining would confirm her.
Her victory on Tuesday over Republican incumbent Senator
Scott Brown is unleashing fresh nervousness in the financial
"The biggest impact I think would be for the mortgage and
credit card industries," said Joseph Engelhard, a senior vice
president for Capital Alpha. "She'll be pushing the CFPB to be a
really tough regulator and examiner of the big banks."
Senator Jack Reed, a senior Democrat on the Senate Banking
Committee, declined to make a prediction on Warren, saying he
thinks she will have an important impact on financial services
policy regardless of where she lands.
"I'm just glad she is in the Senate - I'll settle for that,"
Reed said in an interview Wednesday. "She is very talented and
she has got great experience. There are very few people that
come to this body with literally a lifetime of experience and
detailed knowledge about ... financial regulatory issues."
Retiring U.S. Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat and
the co-author of Dodd-Frank, said Warren could be a critical
defender of cherished reforms against Republican attacks.
"She'll have a very important role there. I assume she'll
get on the Banking Committee," Frank said in an interview on
Still, a seat on Senate Banking is still not guaranteed, one
senior Democratic committee aide warned.
There are numerous factors that go into committee
assignments, from just the basic math of how an election outcome
will change a committee's ratio to whether there is competition
among current sitting senators for openings.
At least two Democratic spots on the panel have opened up
after both Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Daniel Akaka of
Hawaii decided to leave the Senate.
But aides and analysts who follow the Hill say that Warren
may have some tough competition for the slots.
Names being floated around town include Democratic Senator
Chris Coons of Delaware, as well as Democratic Senator Kirsten
Gillibrand of New York, just to name two.
Jason Rosenstock, the director of government relations for
ML Strategies, said that generally incoming freshmen are not
placed on priority "A" committees like banking, though more
recently there have been exceptions and first-time senators have
He also noted that Warren could be a prime candidate for
other committees like Senate Judiciary because of Warren's
in-depth knowledge of bankruptcy law.
Regardless of where Warren lands, most observers agree that
Warren won't need a banking seat to get her position across. But
some doubt her larger impact.
"She's just one of 100 senators," said Harvey Pitt, a former
Republican chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange
"Yes, she can kick up a fuss and raise significant issues,
but at the end of the day, all she can do is try to embarrass
people or create difficulties. By herself it's going to be very
difficult for her to have very much of an impact."