(CNN)Even before Joe Biden won the presidency earlier this month, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made clear that she wanted to be Treasury secretary in his administration.
As Politico reported in late October: “Elizabeth Warren wants to be Joe Biden’s Treasury secretary and will make her case for it if he wins next week, according to three Democratic officials who have spoken with her inner circle. ‘She wants it,’ two of them said matter-of-factly.”On Monday, it became clear: Warren would not be Biden’s pick to be Treasury secretary. Instead, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will get the nod.The truth of the matter is that Warren was never going to be Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary — for four big reasons.1) Warren in the Cabinet would allow Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to appoint a temporary replacement for her in the Senate. While the seat would eventually be filled in a special election, Democrats are still haunted by what happened following the death of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009. The 2010 special election to replace Kennedy was won, stunningly, by Republican Scott Brown. Brown lost in 2012 to Warren. While Massachusetts is a comfortably Democratic state, Biden was never going to allow a Democratic seat to go Republican — even for a few months — given the narrow partisan divide in the Senate.Read More2) Warren’s vision for big structural change doesn’t fit Biden’s pragmatic approach. Biden and Warren have radically different political DNA. Biden is an institutionalist who believes in deal-making with the other side. Warren is an ideologue who has advocated, throughout her life in and out of politics, for large-scale change of big institutions. When Warren and Biden were running against one another in the Democratic primary, she bashed him for “repeating Republican talking points and by dusting off the points of view of the giant insurance companies and the giant drug companies,” for his opposition to a “Medicare for All” health care plan. He fought back by dismissing her views as “an elitism that working- and middle-class people do not share: ‘We know best; you know nothing.'”
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3) Warren would have spooked Wall Street. While Warren backers believe the fear she instilled in the heart of Wall Street executives was her biggest strength for the Treasury job, Biden and his team didn’t see things that way. Over the summer, former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, who had been a past advocate for Warren in other jobs, told CNN Business that it would be a “mistake” for Biden to put her at Treasury. “The financial institutions are very negative about her, unfairly in the degree they are,” Frank said. “If you have someone who is that much opposed by the people being regulated, it doesn’t work smoothly.” The Biden team has little interest in scaring Wall Street at this moment — when coronavirus has decimated the American economy and the road to recovery seems long and difficult.4) Warren might not get confirmed by the Senate. Republicans currently control the Senate majority at the moment — pending two runoffs in Georgia. Unless Democrats sweep both of those races, Biden’s Cabinet picks will need at least one or two Republican votes to be confirmed. It’s not at all clear that Warren, as the Treasury nominee, would have been able to convince even a single Republican to confirm her. And it’s possible she might not have been able to depend on unanimous support from Democrats either; West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has been critical of her liberal worldview in the past.The push by progressives for Biden to consider Warren for Treasury then was always a pipe dream. No one in Bidenworld shot it down because, well, what was the point other than to make liberals mad? But if you think Warren was ever under serious consideration for the job Yellen got, then you don’t know Joe.