Earlier this week, 17 members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted with their Republican colleagues to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank, the moderate banking reform law Congress passed in 2010. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was not one of them.
Warren proposed 17 amendments to the bill which were all rejected. In a nearly 24-minute floor speech before the vote, she railed against the giveaways to the banks in the bill and criticized her fellow colleagues who voted for it—including Democrats. “They voted against every amendment, even if they agreed with it, because Republicans and Democrats had locked arms to do the bidding of the big banks,” Warren said. She didn’t stop there; after the vote, Warren blasted out a Facebook post to her 3.1 million followers that simply detailed who voted for the bill and who didn’t.
One former elected official from Warren’s state took umbrage to that: longtime Congressman Barney Frank, otherwise known as the “Frank” in Dodd-Frank. Frank told the Boston Globe that Warren’s pointed criticism of her fellow Democrats was a “mistake.”
“These are people who voted against [Supreme Court Justice Neil] Gorsuch, most of them,” Frank said. “They support abortion rights, LGBT rights, most of them are strong on the climate change issue. To let a fairly small difference over one issue provoke an angry fight is self-defeating for our fight to win back the Congress.”
Frank, who joined the board of New York-based Signature Bank in 2015, has long said that one “mistake” of his bill is that the threshold for “extra supervision” over banks from the federal government was too low and unnecessarily burdened smaller banks. As David Dayen has reported at The Intercept, this is a reasoning that’s been latched onto by Republicans and pro-banking Democrats as a reason to vote for the bill no matter what else got thrown into it.
Last week, Frank wrote an op-ed for CNBC saying that he wouldn’t vote for the bill if he was still in Congress, but he saved his harshest criticism for people who also think it’s bad but are committing the cardinal sin of vocalizing that displeasure:
I most strongly disagree with advocates who in this case as in others treat a fairly narrow dispute over one issue as if it were a betrayal of basic principles. If Senators from states that voted for Donald Trump who have voted against his tax cut, for the preservation of the Affordable Care Act, and in this case for protection of most of the Dodd-Frank Act are treated as enemies, we progressives [have] too few friends to be effective.
This is a perfect example of why people believe that Democratic politicians are spineless. Instead of saving his harshest criticism for the people actually doing the bad thing, Frank’s anger is directed instead at Warren, whose unforgivable crime was criticizing the bill in public and posting a vote tally. Most people, however, do not care if politicians like each other. They care about whether or not they’re going to be ripped off or discriminated against and whether or not the government is creating the conditions for another recession.
On Thursday, Warren responded, albeit indirectly, in a Medium blog. “Saying Democrats are helping to roll back rules on big banks doesn’t make me the most popular kid on the team,” Warren wrote. “But Massachusetts didn’t send me here to fight for big banks. The people of Massachusetts sent me here to fight for them.”