Bernie Should Pick A VP Candidate And Run As A Dream Ticket

Written by on March 18, 2019

When asked to describe the attributes in a vice president he’s looking for by Cenk recently, Bernie said, playfully, he “would look for somebody who is maybe not of the same gender that I am and maybe somebody who might be a couple of years younger than me” and, less playfully, “somebody who can take the progressive banner, as vice president, and carry it all over the country to help us with our agenda and help us to rally the American people.” Sounds like Elizabeth Warren, no? Kamala? Is she an actual progressive? Tulsi? [Just take my word for it– and I hate to put it this way– ain’t gonna happen.] Nina Turner? Not impossible. Stacey Abrams? That wouldn’t come as a shock. But I’ll stick with Elizabeth Warren for my guess.

“When,” Bernie said, “you talk about other candidates, Elizabeth Warren is someone I have known for over twenty years. She is a friend of mine and she is a very, very good senator and a very serious person.” Keyword: serious– and many think Bernie and Warren are the only really serious contenders in this race.

There was a lot of buzz over the weekend around Theodoric Meyer’s Politico piece, Inside Biden And Warren’s Yearslong Feud. She’s a great counterweight to the biggest threat progressives face in the nomination battle, establishment pick Status Quo Joe, the worst of the Democratic candidates. She never could stomach his suck-up posture towards the banks and the very rich. They fought a long, bitter battle over the bankruptcy bill Wall Street assigned him to get passed. Meyer wrote that it was a question of responsibility they were fighting over. “Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?”

Warren blamed the lenders. Many credit card companies charged so much in fees and interest that they weren’t losing money when some of their customers went bankrupt, she said. “That is, they have squeezed enough out of these families in interest and fees and payments that never paid down principal,” Warren said.

Biden parried. “Maybe we should talk about usury rates, then,” he replied. “Maybe that is what we should be talking about, not bankruptcy.”

“Senator, I will be the first. Invite me.”

“I know you will, but let’s call a spade a spade,” Biden said. “Your problem with credit card companies is usury rates from your position. It is not about the bankruptcy bill.”

“But, senator,” Warren countered, “if you are not going to fix that problem, you can’t take away the last shred of protection from these families.”

At this last remark, Biden smiled and sat back in his chair, according to Mallory Duncan, a lobbyist who was in the room.

“I got it, OK,” Biden said. “You are very good, professor.”

“It was like watching a championship tennis match,” Duncan told me, more than a decade later, of the sparring between the two future presidential candidates.

Fourteen years later, Warren and Biden are expected to find themselves facing off again, this time on a much larger stage. And while a bill that passed in 2005 is unlikely to dominate the 2020 Democratic primaries, the fight over the bankruptcy legislation helped shape Warren politically and could be a surprising liability for Biden in the race to become his party’s choice to replace President Donald Trump.

The bill, which was signed in to law by George W. Bush two months after Biden and Warren tangled, made it harder for Americans to discharge the debts they accrue from things like credit cards and medical bills. According to one study, the law “benefited credit card companies and hurt their customers.” Delaware was home to one of the nation’s biggest credit card issuers at the time, and advocates on both sides of the debate saw Biden as trying to represent his state’s interests in Congress. But with emotions still raw about the banking bailouts of the Great Recession, some Democrats see Biden’s vote for the bill as part of a broader record that’s not as progressive as he’d like it to appear.

And the issue may have special resonance in a primary in which Democrats will be competing for the chance to try to defeat a president whose businesses have gone bankrupt half a dozen times, and who bragged, during the 2016 campaign, about using the nation’s bankruptcy laws “brilliantly” to his benefit.

Some of the lobbyists and lawmakers who championed the bill say it’s worked the way they intended. The number of consumer bankruptcy filings has slumped from more than 2 million in 2005 to fewer than 800,000 in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Joe Rubin, who worked on bankruptcy legislation as a House Republican staffer in the 1990s and later lobbied in support of the bill for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote in 2015 that it had “returned bankruptcy to its roots as a last resort for consumers, particularly wealthy consumers, as it was intended.”

But bankruptcy scholars say the law has made it harder for people in financial distress– especially the poor– to file for bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands of people who might otherwise file for bankruptcy have delayed doing so, according to research conducted by Warren and others who’ve studied the law. Meanwhile, there’s little evidence the law has tackled the problem that Biden and other lawmakers described as the reason that bankruptcy laws needed to be changed in the first place– a supposed surge in bankruptcy fraud and abuses. “I doubt that the bill reined in the abuses that the bill was premised on, in part because they didn’t necessarily exist in the first place,” said Melissa Jacoby, a law professor at the University of North Carolina who studies bankruptcy.

While Biden has expressed remorse for other aspects of his record in the Senate, including the way he handled Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of 1991 and his vote for the crime bill in 1994, he has defended his push to pass the bankruptcy bill. Biden, “knowing that the bill was likely to make it through the Republican-led Congress, worked to moderate the bankruptcy bill and protect middle class families,” Bill Russo, a Biden spokesman, said in a statement to Politico. “He believed that if you have income and consumer debts you can pay, you should agree to a repayment plan that you can afford.”



Even so, Biden has expressed misgivings. One of the bill’s hundreds of provisions was to bar those who file for bankruptcy from getting rid of private student loan debt. (Government-backed student loans, which make up the vast majority of student loan debt, were already exempt from discharge in bankruptcy.) But “the private student loan market in this country has changed dramatically since 2005, in part due to the increase of for-profit education,” Russo said. In 2015, the Obama administration asked Congress to pass a law allowing those with private student loan debt to eliminate it through bankruptcy– reversing the change Biden had voted for a decade before. Congress hasn’t done so.

Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who voted against the bill, described it as “one of the worst pieces of legislation of all time” when he ran for president in 2008 and questioned former Sen. John Edwards’ vote for it during a presidential debate. But Dodd told me he didn’t see Biden’s vote for the bill as a fault line between Biden and Warren. “I would call them both progressive Democrats, and they’ve reflected that throughout their careers,” Dodd said.

…[S]ome progressives say he hasn’t done enough to make up for what they see as his past mistakes. Biden’s vote for the bill, along with those he cast in favor of the Iraq War in 2003 and the crime bill, are “very out of step with where the electorate is,” said Rebecca Kirszner Katz, a Democratic operative who’s worked on the campaigns of progressive candidates such as Cynthia Nixon and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Biden’s record in President Barack Obama’s administration doesn’t absolve him of his votes in the preceding decade, she added.

“I don’t think he just gets a pass because he was Obama’s vice president,” she said.

…[Warren’s] anger at Biden didn’t abate after Bush signed the bill into law in 2005. In a post on her now-defunct Warren Reports blog– which is still accessible via the Internet Archive– not long afterward, Warren accused Biden of “twisting arms to get the bankruptcy bill through Congress.”

…Biden was one of 18 Democratic senators to vote for the bankruptcy bill in 2005, but of the more than a dozen current and former members of Congress who are running or considering running for president, he is the only one who voted for it. Two other candidates– Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, both of whom were in the House at the time– voted against it. While Biden’s support for the bill is unlikely to torpedo his campaign by itself, it’s easy to imagine his rivals using it to help make the case that he’s too close to Washington lobbyists and Wall Street.

Before he tapped Biden as his running mate, Barack Obama criticized John McCain during the 2008 campaign for “siding with banking industry lobbyists” by voting for the bankruptcy bill. Sanders suggested in 2016 that Hillary Clinton had capitulated to the financial industry by voting for a version of the bill in 2001. (She didn’t vote on the 2005 bill.) And Warren herself has mused on how presidential candidates’ votes for the bill might be turned against them.

“For a decade, Orrin Hatch, Joe Biden, Jim Sensenbrenner, and dozens of others in Congress decried the state of bankruptcy laws that permitted people to take advantage of financial institutions,” Warren wrote in a 2008 post on Credit Slips, a bankruptcy law blog, after Tim Russert asked Clinton and Edwards about their votes for the bill during a Democratic presidential debate. “With a recession bearing down, the language of bankruptcy has shifted from ‘abusers’ who ‘take advantage of lenders’ to language of concern over the growing stress on hard-working families.” While voting for the bill had won senators the gratitude of lobbyists who write campaign checks, “that door swings both ways,” Warren went on. “Those who wanted to snuzzle with the lobbyists leave themselves vulnerable to counterattacks.”

“Back in 2005, there was supposed to be no political cost to voting for the bankruptcy bill,” Warren added. “Today, that seems to be changing.”

As an example, she cited Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD), who faced a primary challenge in 2008 from an opponent [Donna Edwards] who attacked him over his vote for the bankruptcy bill, among other issues. Wynn lost in a landslide– then resigned to become a lobbyist.

Who Biden has fought for for his entire miserable political career, should tell you exactly who he would continue fighting for if– God forbid– he gets into the White House, a candidate whose only redeeming quality would be that he’s better than Trump, the lowest political bar ever.


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