Elizabeth Ann Warren (née Herring, born June 22, 1949) is an American politician and academic serving as the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, a seat she has held since 2013. Warren was formerly a professor of law and taught at the University of Texas School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and most recently at Harvard Law School. A prominent scholar specializing in bankruptcy law, Warren was among the most cited law professors in the field of commercial law before she began her political career.
|United States Senator|
Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
Serving with Ed Markey
|Preceded by||Scott Brown|
|Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus|
Assumed office |
January 3, 2017
Serving with Mark Warner
|Preceded by||Chuck Schumer|
|Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau|
September 17, 2010 – August 1, 2011
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Raj Date|
|Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel|
November 25, 2008 – November 15, 2010
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Ted Kaufman|
Elizabeth Ann Herring|
June 22, 1949
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (1996–present)|
|Republican (before 1996)|
(m. 1968; div. 1978)
Bruce H. Mann (m. 1980)
George Washington University|
University of Houston (BS)
Rutgers University–Newark (JD)
Warren is an active consumer protection advocate whose efforts led to the conception and establishment of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She has written a number of academic and popular works and is a frequent subject of media interviews regarding the American economy and personal finance. Following the 2008 financial crisis, Warren served as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was created to oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). She later served as Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Barack Obama. During the late 2000s, publications such as The National Law Journal and Time 100 recognized her as an increasingly influential public policy figure.
In September 2011, Warren announced her candidacy for the Senate, challenging Republican incumbent Scott Brown. She won the general election on November 6, 2012, becoming the first female U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. She was assigned to the Senate Special Committee on Aging; the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. She is a leading figure in the Democratic Party and popular among American progressives. Although she has repeatedly stated that she was not running for president, political pundits frequently mentioned Warren as a potential candidate in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.
Early life, education, and family
Warren was born on June 22, 1949, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as the fourth child of middle-class parents Pauline (née Reed, 1912–1995) and Donald Jones Herring (1911–1997). Warren has described her family as teetering "on the ragged edge of the middle class" and "kind of hanging on at the edges by our fingernails". She had three older brothers and was raised as a Methodist.
Warren lived in Norman until she was 11 years old, when the family moved to Oklahoma City. When she was 12, her father, a salesman at Montgomery Ward, had a heart attack, which led to many medical bills as well as a pay cut because he could not do his previous work. Eventually, their car was repossessed because they failed to make loan payments. To help the family finances, her mother found work in the catalog order department at Sears. When she was 13, Warren started waiting tables at her aunt's restaurant.
Warren became a star member of the debate team at Northwest Classen High School and won the state high school debating championship. She also won a debate scholarship to George Washington University at the age of 16. She initially aspired to be a teacher, but left GWU after two years to marry Jim Warren, whom she met in high school.
Warren and her husband moved to Houston, where he was employed by IBM, which was a subcontractor to NASA. She enrolled in the University of Houston and graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology. For a year, she taught children with disabilities who were enrolled in a public school. Her qualifications were based on an "emergency certificate", because she had not taken the education courses that were required for a regular teaching certificate.
The Warrens moved to New Jersey when Jim received a job transfer. She soon became pregnant and decided to remain at home to care for their child. After their daughter turned two, Warren enrolled at the Rutgers Law School in Newark. She worked as a summer associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Shortly before graduating in 1976, Warren became pregnant with their second child. After she received her J.D. and passed the bar examination, she decided to perform legal services from home; she wrote wills and did real estate closings.
The couple had two children, Amelia and Alexander, before they divorced in 1978. Two years later, Warren married Bruce H. Mann, a law professor, but she decided to retain the surname of her first husband. She also has grandchildren.
Native American heritage
Warren has said that as a child she was told that she had Native American ancestry, and has spoken about how members of her family said that her grandfather "had high cheek bones like all of the Indians do", and that "being Native American has been part of my story, I guess, since the day I was born".
In April 2012, The Boston Globe sparked a campaign controversy by reporting that from 1986 to 1995 Warren had listed herself as a racial minority in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Directory of Law Teachers. Harvard Law School had identified Warren as a "woman of color" in response to criticisms about a lack of faculty diversity. Scott Brown, her Republican opponent in the Senate race, accused Warren of fabricating Native American heritage to gain advantage in the job market. Warren said that her family's ancestry forced her parents to elope: "As a kid, I never asked my mom for documentation when she talked about our Native American heritage. What kid would? But I knew my father's family didn't like that she was part Cherokee and part Delaware, so my parents had to elope."
Former colleagues and supervisors at universities where she had worked stated that Warren's ancestry played no role in her hiring. Warren stated that she had listed herself as a minority to meet people of similar heritage, and was unaware that Harvard had listed her as a woman of color. In her 2014 autobiography, Warren stated that she gained no career advantage from her stated heritage, and described the allegations as untrue and hurtful. An investigation by The Boston Globe in 2018 found "clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools."
In 2016 Senator Scott Brown challenged Warren to prove her claim by taking a DNA test. President Donald Trump in July 2018 promised "I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian." Trump has repeatedly referred to Warren as "Pocahontas", which Warren and others, including many Native Americans, consider a racial slur. In October 2018, Warren released the results of a genetic ancestry analysis conducted by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante to The Boston Globe, which concludes that "while the vast majority of [Warren]'s ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in [her] pedigree, likely in the range of 6-10 generations ago", which fits Warren's statement that her great-great-great grandmother was at least partially Native American. The The Washington Post noted that as the vast majority of European Americans have no Native American ancestry, "[Warren's] claim to some Native American heritage is much stronger than most European Americans."
Warren's disclosure elicited some criticism from Native Americans. The Cherokee Nation's Secretary of State released an official announcement, saying "Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong ... Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage". Rebecca Nagle, Cherokee tribal member, stated: "There is nothing innocent about a white woman claiming her ancestors experienced genocide and ethnic cleansing — an inescapable fact for Cherokee families — when they did not." Warren responded, "I'm not enrolled in a tribe; only tribes determine tribal citizenship. I understand and respect that distinction," she said.
During the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Warren taught law at several universities throughout the country while researching issues related to bankruptcy and middle-class personal finance. She became involved with public work in bankruptcy regulation and consumer protection in the mid-1990s.
Warren started her academic career as a lecturer at Rutgers University, Newark School of Law (1977–78). She moved to the University of Houston Law Center (1978–83), where she became Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 1980, and obtained tenure in 1981. She taught at the University of Texas School of Law as visiting associate professor in 1981, and returned as a full professor two years later (staying 1983–87). In addition, she was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan (1985) and research associate at the Population Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin (1983–87). During this period Warren used to teach Sunday School. Early in her career, Warren became a proponent of on-the-ground research based on studying how people actually respond to laws in the real world. Her work analyzing court records, and interviewing judges, lawyers, and debtors, established her as a rising star in the field of bankruptcy law.
Warren joined the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a full professor in 1987 and obtained an endowed chair in 1990 (becoming William A Schnader Professor of Commercial Law). She taught for a year at Harvard Law School in 1992 as Robert Braucher Visiting Professor of Commercial Law. In 1995, Warren left Penn to become Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. As of 2011[update], she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university. Warren was a highly influential law professor. Although she published in many fields, her expertise was in bankruptcy and commercial law. In that field, only Bob Scott of Columbia and Alan Schwartz of Yale were cited more often than Warren.
In 1995, Warren was asked to advise the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. She helped to draft the commission's report and worked for several years to oppose legislation intended to severely restrict the right of consumers to file for bankruptcy. Warren and others opposing the legislation were not successful; in 2005 Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which curtailed the ability of consumers to file for bankruptcy.
From November 2006 to November 2010, Warren was a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion. She is a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, an independent organization that advises the U.S. Congress on bankruptcy law. She is a former vice president of the American Law Institute and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
On November 14, 2008, Warren was appointed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to chair the five-member Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the implementation of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. The Panel released monthly oversight reports evaluating the government bailout and related programs. During Warren's tenure, these reports covered foreclosure mitigation; consumer and small business lending; commercial real estate; AIG; bank stress tests; the impact of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) on the financial markets; government guarantees; the automotive industry; and other topics.[a]
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Warren was an early advocate for the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The bureau was established by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law by President Obama in July 2010. In September 2010, President Obama named Warren Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set up the new agency. While liberal groups and consumer advocacy groups pushed for Obama to formally nominate Warren as the agency's director, Warren was strongly opposed by financial institutions and by Republican members of Congress who believed Warren would be an overly zealous regulator. Reportedly convinced that Warren could not win Senate confirmation as the bureau's first director, Obama turned to former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and in January 2012, over the objections of Republican senators, appointed Cordray to the post in a recess appointment.
Warren voted as a Republican for many years, saying, "I was a Republican because I thought that those were the people who best supported markets". According to Warren, she began to vote Democratic in 1995 because she no longer believed that to be true, but she states that she has voted for both parties because she believed that neither party should dominate.
On September 14, 2011, Warren declared her intention to run for the Democratic nomination for the 2012 election in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate. The seat had been won by Republican Scott Brown in a 2010 special election after the death of Ted Kennedy. A week later, a video of Warren speaking in Andover became a viral video on the Internet. In it, Warren replies to the charge that asking the rich to pay more taxes is "class warfare", pointing out that no one grew rich in the U.S. without depending on infrastructure paid for by the rest of society, stating:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. ... You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Warren ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination and won it on June 2, 2012, at the state Democratic convention with a record 95.77% of the votes of delegates. She encountered significant opposition from business interests. In August the political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed that "no other candidate in 2012 represents a greater threat to free enterprise than Professor Warren". She nonetheless raised $39 million for her campaign, the most of any Senate candidate in 2012, and showed, according to The New York Times, "that it was possible to run against the big banks without Wall Street money and still win".
Warren received a prime-time speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention on September 5, 2012. She positioned herself as a champion of a beleaguered middle class that "has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered". According to Warren, "People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: They're right. The system is rigged." Warren said Wall Street CEOs "wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs" and that they "still strut around congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them".
On November 6, 2012, Warren defeated incumbent Scott Brown with a total of 53.7% of the votes. She is the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, as part of a sitting U.S. Senate that had 20 female senators in office, the largest female U.S. Senate delegation in history, following the November 2012 elections. In December 2012, Warren was assigned a seat on the Senate Banking Committee, the committee that oversees the implementation of Dodd–Frank and other regulation of the banking industry. Warren was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on January 3, 2013.
At Warren's first Banking Committee hearing in February 2013, she pressed several banking regulators to answer when they had last taken a Wall Street bank to trial and stated, "I'm really concerned that 'too big to fail' has become 'too big for trial'." Videos of Warren's questioning became popular on the Internet, amassing more than one million views in a matter of days. At a Banking Committee hearing in March, Warren asked Treasury Department officials why criminal charges were not brought against HSBC for its money laundering practices. With her questions being continually dodged, Warren compared money laundering to drug possession, saying: "If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you're going to go to jail ... But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night."
In May 2013, Warren sent letters to the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve, questioning their decisions that settling rather than going to court would be more fruitful. Also in May, suggesting that students should get "the same great deal that banks get", Warren introduced the Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, which would allow students to take out government education loans at the same rate that banks pay to borrow from the federal government, 0.75%., Independent Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed her bill saying: "The only thing wrong with this bill is that [she] thought of it and I didn't".
During the 2014 election cycle, Warren was a top Democratic fundraiser. Following the election, Warren was appointed to become the first-ever Strategic Adviser of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, a position that was created just for her. The appointment further added to speculation about a possible presidential run by Warren in 2016.
Saying, "despite the progress we've made since 2008, the biggest banks continue to threaten our economy," in July 2015 Senator Warren, along with John McCain (R-AZ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME) re-introduced the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, a modern version of the Banking Act of 1933. The legislation is intended to reduce the risk for the American taxpayer in the financial system and decrease the likelihood of future financial crises.
In a September 20, 2016, hearing, Warren called for the CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, to resign, adding that he should be "criminally investigated" over Wells Fargo's opening of two million checking and credit-card accounts without the consent of their customers under his tenure.
In December 2016, Warren gained a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, termed by The Boston Globe to be "a high-profile perch on one of the chamber's most powerful committees" which will "fuel speculation about a possible 2020 bid for president".
On February 7, 2017, Republicans in the Senate voted that Sen. Warren had violated Senate rule 19 during the debate on attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, claiming that she impugned his character when she quoted statements made about Sessions by Coretta Scott King and Sen. Ted Kennedy. "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge. This simply cannot be allowed to happen," King wrote in a 1986 letter to Sen. Strom Thurmond, which Warren attempted to read on the Senate floor. This action prohibited Warren from further participating in the debate on Sessions' nomination for United States Attorney General. Instead, she stepped into a nearby room and continued reading King's letter while streaming live on the Internet.
On October 3, 2017, Warren called for Wells Fargo's chief executive, Tim Sloan, to resign during his appearance before the Senate Banking Committee, saying, "At best you were incompetent, at worst you were complicit".
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
- Special Committee on Aging
In December 2016, Warren announced plans to introduce a bill to address future President Donald Trump's perceived conflicts of interest related to his business empire. Under her proposed bill Donald Trump could face impeachment if he fails to declare conflicts of interest between his presidential role and his business interests. Warren states, "The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts-of-interest is to divest his financial interests and place them in a blind trust. This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same." On January 9, 2017, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, was first read in the Senate.
Warren is known for her left-wing populism.
On January 6, 2017, in an e-mail to supporters, Warren announced that she would be running for a second term as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. She wrote in the e-mail, "The people of Massachusetts didn't send me to Washington to roll over and play dead while Donald Trump and his team of billionaires, bigots, and Wall Street bankers crush the working people of our Commonwealth and this country," and "This is no time to quit."
2016 presidential and vice presidential speculation
In the runup to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Warren was put forward by supporters as a possible presidential candidate. However, Warren repeatedly stated that she was not running for president in 2016. In October 2013, she joined with the other fifteen Senate Democratic women in signing a letter that encouraged Hillary Clinton to run. There was much speculation about Warren being added to the Democratic ticket as a vice-presidential candidate. On June 9, 2016, after the California Democratic primary, Warren formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. In response to questions when she endorsed Clinton, Warren said that she believed herself to be ready to be vice president, but she was not being vetted. On July 7, CNN reported that Warren was on a five-person short list to be Clinton's vice-presidential running mate. However, Clinton eventually chose Tim Kaine.
Warren vigorously campaigned for Hillary Clinton and took an active role in the 2016 presidential election. She remarked that Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee, was dishonest, uncaring of people and "a loser".
|Republican||Scott Brown (incumbent)||1,458,048||46.2|
In popular culture
- On 19 February 2010, Warren appeared on Bill Maher's "Real Time with Bill Maher" show and participated in a "bit". Maher says, "Before the crash, I had most of my savings in Lehman Brothers."He waits a beat, then says, "I don't have a question, I just want you to hold me." He collapsed into her lap and she obliged.
- Warren appeared in season two of the documentary Makers: Women Who Make America (2014), specifically in episode 6, "Women in Politics".
- In 2017, Kate McKinnon played Warren on Saturday Night Live.
- Warren's popularity is the basis of a wide array of merchandise sold in her name, much of which incorporates Mitch McConnell's "Nevertheless, she persisted" remark, including an action figure of the senator.
- In 2018, the New York Times published two stories written as if reporting on the 2020 presidential election results, one titled "How Trump Won Re-election in 2020", by Bret Stephens, and one titled "How Trump Lost Re-election in 2020", by David Leonhardt; in both Warren was said to be his opponent in that election.
- Musician Jonathan Mann has written songs about Warren, including, for example, "She Persisted".
Honors and awards
In 2009, The Boston Globe named her the Bostonian of the Year and the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts honored her with the Lelia J. Robinson Award. She was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009, 2010 and 2015. The National Law Journal repeatedly has named Warren as one of the Fifty Most Influential Women Attorneys in America, and in 2010 it honored her as one of the 40 most influential attorneys of the decade. In 2011, Warren was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In January 2012, Warren was named one of the "top 20 US progressives" by the British New Statesman magazine.
In 2009, Warren became the first professor in Harvard's history to win the law school's The Sacks–Freund Teaching Award for a second time. In 2011, she delivered the commencement address at the Rutgers Law School in Newark, her alma mater, and obtained an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and membership in the Order of the Coif.
In 2018, the Women's History Month theme in the United States was "Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women", referring to Mitch McConnell's "Nevertheless, she persisted" remark about Warren.
Books and other works
Warren and her daughter Amelia Tyagi wrote The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. Warren and Tyagi point out that a fully employed worker today earns less inflation-adjusted income than a fully employed worker did 30 years ago. Although families spend less today on clothing, appliances, and other consumption, the costs of core expenses such as mortgages, health care, transportation, and child care have increased dramatically. The result is that even with two income earners, families are no longer able to save and have incurred greater and greater debt.
In an article in The New York Times, Jeff Madrick said of the book:
The authors find that it is not the free-spending young or the incapacitated elderly who are declaring bankruptcy so much as families with children ... their main thesis is undeniable. Typical families often cannot afford the high-quality education, health care, and neighborhoods required to be middle class today. More clearly than anyone else, I think, Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi have shown how little attention the nation and our government have paid to the way Americans really live.
In 2005, Warren and David Himmelstein published a study on bankruptcy and medical bills, which found that half of all families filing for bankruptcy did so in the aftermath of a serious medical problem. They say that three-quarters of such families had medical insurance. This study was widely cited in policy debates, although some have challenged the study's methods and offered alternative interpretations of the data, suggesting that only seventeen percent of bankruptcies are directly attributable to medical expenses.
Warren's book A Fighting Chance was published by Metropolitan Books in April 2014. According to a review published in The Boston Globe, "the book's title refers to a time she says is now gone, when even families of modest means who worked hard and played by the rules had at a fair shot at the American dream."
In April 2017, Warren published her eleventh book titled This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class, in which she explores the plight of the American middle class and argues that the federal government needs to do more to help out working families with stronger social programs and increased investment in education.
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And my Aunt Bea has walked by that picture at least a 1,000 times remarked that he - her father, my Papaw -- had high cheek bones like all of the Indians do. ... Being Native American has been part of my story, I guess, since the day I was born
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officials involved in her hiring at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas and the University of Houston Law Center all said that she was hired because she was an outstanding teacher, and that her lineage was either not discussed or not a factor
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|New creation|| Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law of Harvard Law School
| Second Vice President of the American Law Institute
|New office|| Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel
| Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
| Keynote Speaker of the Democratic National Convention|
| Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Conference
Served alongside: Mark Warner
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: John Kerry, Mo Cowan, Ed Markey
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority