Why Elizabeth Warren Voted for Jack Lew for Treasury

Much to the surprise of very few, Jack Lew was confirmed as Treasury Secretary yesterday. A gifted technocrat with ties to Wall Street—one whose Citibank contract urged him to take a whirl through the revolving door—Lew seems to be the sort of person one would expect to find occupying a cabinet level position. And occupy he does, now. The former White House Chief of Staff, OMB Director and Citibank executive was approved by the Senate after a 71-26 vote. He is now a key regulator, in charge of overseeing an overbearing, outsized and reckless sector—one that he believes doesn’t need significant regulation. Stop. The. Presses. Le plus ça change. You can take the cat out of the jungle. Etc.

What is surprising, however, is that Elizabeth Warren voted for Lew’s nomination, despite staunch opposition from another prominent left wing colleague, Bernie Sanders (the only left-of-center Senator to vote no). Lew seems to be the sort of revolving door passenger that Warren was sent to Washington to oppose.

In the wake of the vote, Warren issued a statement. Here it is in full:

“I am very hopeful that Jack Lew will make a good Treasury Secretary and was pleased to vote for his confirmation. As a former Treasury official, however, I believe it will be critical for him to bring on board people with a variety of backgrounds as he builds his team and helps select other regulators – people with a wide range of housing, consumer advocacy, and market experience. The Administration still has work to do to fix the housing market and reduce the risk of future crises, and I do not believe that putting Wall Street executives in key assistant secretary and regulatory positions is a cure-all for our problems. Wall Street voices add value and expertise – internally and when they are listened to from the outside – but so do others.”

It seems to gloss over a few key issues — mainly those aforementioned.

Whatever the reason for the discrepancy between Warren’s and Sanders’ positions—perhaps seniority played a role, and one more “no” wouldn’t have made a difference—Warren’s vote and statement contrast sharply with her Senate Banking Committee debut and her subsequent tough line of questioning with Ben Bernanke over why the Fed isn’t actually ready to end “Too Big to Fail” banks.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.