Scott Brown sure did talk a great game about being Mr. Bipartisan, didn’t he? But if you stop to think about it, he was a remarkably ineffective Senator. His widely-noticed penchant for waiting until the last possible second to make up his mind on anything deprived him of the ability to have much significant influence on important legislation. Perhaps the exception to that is the Dodd-Frank bill, which he voted for only after weakening it for the benefit of some of the biggest financial institutions around. Well, bravo.
And the piece of legislation that Brown seems to have been most proud of, the so-called STOCK Act, was feel-good legislation that allows Congress to pat itself on the back for preventing itself from behaving badly. It wasn’t harmful, but it didn’t create a single job or help a single Massachusetts person in need.
Compare that to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s early track record. Of course, she has already made national headlines for her aggressive questioning of bank regulators (including some within the Obama administration) and of folks opposed to raising the minimum wage (some videos of those hearings have become YouTube sensations garnering hundreds of thousands of views; one has almost hit a million). But you know what else she’s done? She did this (email, no link):
The U.S. Senate today passed a bipartisan amendment introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to help provide critical disaster relief funds for fishermen. The amendment was the first introduced and passed by Senator Warren since she took office in January.
Co-sponsors include Senators William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Senator Warren and Senator Murkowski merged two separate amendments to reach a bipartisan agreement that allows appropriations in the FY14 budget to be allocated to provide disaster assistance for fishermen. The funding would help support a response to the commercial fisheries failures declared by the Secretary of Commerce in 2012.
Lead sponsors: one Democrat (Warren) and one Republican. Co-sponsors: eight Democrats, four Republicans, one independent. And that’s an amendment that will (should it pass the House) bring desperately-needed relief to fishermen right here in Massachusetts. That’s exactly what our Senator should be doing.
Also, earlier this month, Warren joined forces with very conservative Senators Corker (R-TN) and Vitter (R-LA) (along with Mark Warner (D-VA)) to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Four Senators are crossing party lines to propose a GSE [government-sponsored enterprise] reform bill that would prevent the government from using guarantee-fee hikes at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to cover other spending initiatives.
The proposed legislation also would prohibit the sale of GSE-preferred shares owned by the Treasury without congressional approval and the completion of GSE reform first…. The initiative shows two of the more vocal housing critics — Sens. Warren and Corker — finding consensus on GSE reform across the aisle and taking a major step in trying to curb ‘the status quo’ at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac….
“If Treasury were to decide to sell its preferred share investment without Congress having first reformed our housing sector, we would just be returning to a time where gains are for private shareholders and losses are for taxpayers,” said Corker.
“Neither of these is an acceptable outcome, so I’m very happy that Senators Warner, Vitter and Warren have joined me in this effort, and I hope Congress will take the necessary steps to ensure housing finance reform can happen as soon as possible,” Corker added.
Needless to say, fixing Fannie and Freddie and repairing the housing market is something that will actually help people throughout the country.
Good policy isn’t necessarily bipartisan, and bipartisan policy isn’t necessarily good. People like Scott Brown who talk about bipartisanship as an end in itself (if I only had a nickel for every time Scott Brown repeated that study claiming that he was the second most bipartisan Senator) misunderstand this fact – and, to be fair to Brown, he is hardly alone in this, since bipartisanship for its own sake is very popular among prominent local and national members of the chattering class.
Last November, Massachusetts voters had a choice between electing someone who talked about bipartisanship for its own sake rather than being in the service of getting something useful done, and someone with a clear vision of what needed to get done and was willing to work with whoever would care to join her in helping make it happen. They chose the latter, and it’s working out well so far. Well done, Massachusetts.