Donald Trump’s election has propelled Sen. Elizabeth Warren into an even sharper partisan spotlight as she embraces her role as a top Democratic foil to the Republican president-elect.
In just the past few weeks, Warren has penned a scathing 16-page critique of Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos; grilled his pick for housing secretary, Ben Carson; co-sponsored legislation requiring the president and vice president to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest; and signed onto legislation to block the creation of a federal religious registry.
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The Massachusetts Democrat is leaning on every lever of power she has — from her fundraising prowess to her social media accounts — to position herself as a leading voice of a party in political exile.
“My priorities haven’t changes since the day I got into office,” Warren said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I see my job as making sure the voices of ordinary people aren’t drowned out in Washington by those who have money and power.”
Her list of grievances with Trump is long and growing longer.
But in a shift from the campaign, when Warren lobbed Twitter grenade after Twitter grenade to get under Trump’s skin, she says her criticism is now more focused on her top priority: the economic well-being of middle- and working-class families.
She has excoriated Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, saying he profited from the foreclosure crisis; called out Trump’s Department of Labor nominee, fast food entrepreneur Andrew Puzder, after hearing from workers who said they were underpaid, had their wages stolen, and were forced to work in unsafe conditions; and vowed to fight to protect President Barack Obama’s health care law and preserve the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create.
“The Republicans have put us on the path to repealing the ACA (Affordable Care Act), and that will make a profound difference in the lives of millions of Americans,” Warren told the AP. “I’m all for making the ACA better, but not for throwing it out. What the Republicans are doing is irresponsible and cruel.”
Warren is taking the political long view.
She is an aggressive fundraiser, and through her political action committee — PAC for a Level Playing Field — she has doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past two years to Democratic candidates and committees in the hope of strengthening the party’s hand in future elections.
“The Democrat’s agenda is the American people’s agenda,” she said.
Warren won’t say whether she is prepping for a possible 2020 run for president, although she has announced plans to run for re-election in 2018, making the case for a second term in part by again pointing to “Donald Trump and his team of billionaires, bigots, and Wall Street bankers” in an email to supporters.
Massachusetts Republicans have labeled Warren a “hyperpartisan bully more interested in scoring political points than delivering actual results.”
But among voters in her home state where she remains popular, the reaction to Warren’s spikes-up approach is more nuanced.
“I’m just tired of all the fighting,” said Tim James, 26, of Newton, who works in macroeconomics. “I don’t agree with a lot of the things that Trump had to say … but we’ve had about eight years or so of gridlock in Washington, and I think that it’s important for us to try to put some of the more divisive rhetoric to the side.”
Jay Fiset, a 30-year-old chef from Somerville, also said that while Trump and Warren may be political polar opposites, it’s time to ditch the campaign.
“They’re going to butt heads,” he said. “But I think that they should come together and try and figure out the problems rather than pinpointing who’s doing what wrong.”
Others see a reason to applaud every Warren missive.
“She should definitely keep going hard after him because he hasn’t admitted to anything yet. He hasn’t apologized for anything,” said Dencis Pena, 37, of Boston, who works in the insurance industry. “Until he changes and shows he actually understands the facts, people should not let him off the hook.”