Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is eyeing a familiar foe ahead of 2020: Mick Mulvaney.
The Massachusetts senator on Tuesday circulated a letter to ethics officials asking them to examine whether Mulvaney violated federal law in seeking a job as president of the University of South Carolina, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Beast. Citing a New York Times report from last week, which first broke news of Mulvaney’s interest in the position, Warren requested information on whether Mulvaney “disclosed any negotiations with the University of South Carolina,” noting the institution is receiving nearly “200 million in federal grants and contracts” from the U.S. government.
Mulvaney is a natural foil to Warren. The senator’s outsized presence in Washington is defined by regulatory and ethics reform, and promoting legislation favorable to American consumers. If Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the left’s uncompromising gadfly espousing daydreams of socialism, then Warren is the party’s accomplished realist, seeing the administrative state as framework for policy wins and economic safeguards.
Mulvaney, by contrast, has made it his mission to dismantle the administrative state, joking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last year that one “can’t swing a dead cat in [Washington] without hitting a blue ribbon commission.” After taking control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2017—an institution Warren helped establish in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis—Mulvaney proceeded to neuter the agency, firing the CFPB’s 25-member advisory board last summer.
“We are still Elizabeth Warren’s child,” lamented Mulvaney to Bloomberg. “As long as we’re identified with that one person, we’ll never be taken as seriously as a regulator as we should.”
“Mick Mulvaney has no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them,” said Warren in a statement shortly after the CFPB members were fired. “This is what happens when you put someone in charge of an agency they think shouldn’t exist.”
Despite the White House’s near-constant turnovers, Mulvaney has remained a fixture of the Trump administration and has used daily dysfunction to consolidate his power. He currently serves as both the director of the Office of Management and Budget and as President Trump’s acting chief-of-staff, having headed the CFPB from November 2017 to December 2018. By pointing out what type of lasting effect Mulvaney’s power will have on American government, institutions and citizens, Warren makes a case for her own brand of liberalism, one rooted in empowering working families over Wall Street.
Like many Democratic lawmakers with presidential ambitions, Warren has struggled to effectively challenge Trump publicly on policy issues, and lacks even a rudimentary level of media savvy. After being strong-armed by the president into taking a Native American heritage test, the senator was condemned by the Cherokee Nation and has struggled to move past a decades-old controversy that she lied about her heritage throughout her academic career.
Trump has banked his presidency on a surging economy, and subsequently, will be responsible for its predicted collapse come 2020—an environment in which Warren’s platform could resonate more with voters. In the meantime, the Massachusetts senator is perfectly situated to spar with the man responsible for executing the White House agenda.