"Open Rebellion" Pays Off — Warren & Progressives Sink Obama Nominee Antonio Weiss
by Gaius Publius
Looks like Wall Street darling and Obama Treasury nominee Antonio Weiss — a man oddly praised as "progressive by Wall Street standards" — will have to forgo his pre-paid lobbying (sorry, "public service") career and set up shop as a "counselor" to the Treasury secretary instead, taking a position that requires no congressional questioning.
Lucky him; impertinent congressional questioners have been on a roll lately. Here's Jennifer Bendery at Huffington Post to explain:
Wall Street banker Antonio Weiss has asked President Barack Obama not to renominate him to a top Treasury Department post because of the fight being waged against him by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats.Weiss was slated for the number-three position at Treasury, in charge of, among other things, consumer financial protection. Weiss is also a bigwig at Lazard Ltd, the mega-firm that helped create, among many others, the Burger King–Tim Hortons "tax inversion" deal, the one that tastes great with fries ... and low low wages.
First reported by Politico, Weiss wrote to Obama over the weekend saying that he didn't think the Treasury Department "would be well served" by the lengthy confirmation process his nomination would likely entail, given the level of Democratic opposition he has faced. Weiss, who had initially been nominated as undersecretary for domestic finance, has instead accepted a job as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, a post that doesn't require congressional approval.
The news is a major victory for Warren and progressive groups who have been criticizing Weiss's nomination since November, when Warren first wrote an op-ed railing against the revolving door between Wall Street and government regulators. She argued that Weiss, a senior banker at financial giant Lazard whose work centered on international mergers, isn't even qualified for a job that involves overseeing consumer protection and domestic regulatory functions at Treasury.There's more in her piece. I admit to having followed this with interest, since it was the first clear instance of what I called "open rebellion" — defiance of Democratic party leadership — among the next crop in Congress. Here's our first examination of Warren contra Weiss (and Obama), in which we examined the question:
Weiss also stood to gain $20 million from Lazard if he got confirmed for the Treasury post, a payout for not going to a competing financial group [the "pre-paid lobbying" I mentioned]. That left some uncomfortable that Weiss would be inclined to give favorable treatment to his former firm.
Has Warren joined the nominal enemy (Republicans), or has she taken the fight to the real enemy that controls both parties — the "billionaire class"?After all, Obama wanted this nomination badly, and party-unity rules the Democrats. Even Jeff Merkley, good as he is on some things, voted to break the filibuster on CR-Omnibus. So degree of defiance of party leadership matters, at least as many of us see it.
After Warren came out against Weiss for this position, Wall Street defenders attacked her fiercely, including this from the New York Times — an attack that looked pretty sexist to me. I was actually looking forward to the vote, since it would provide another indicator of which Democrats were determined to play "Follow the Neoliberal Leader" and which would side with Warren. The downside to a vote, however, was that Weiss would likely win, especially with McConnell in charge of the Senate.
Looks like a dose of public tar, followed by a sprinkling of feathers from the neck of a downy goose, was more than Weiss wanted to endure. So good news all round.
Now Watch the Loretta Lynch Nomination
Let's celebrate the win, then on to the next. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Obama has also nominated Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder for Attorney General. Here's what Thom Hartmann and Mike Papantonio say about Lynch:
Listen for the phrase "cake walk, not a perp walk." As I explained here, Lynch signed off on the corrupt HSBC money laundering wrist-slap. The crime — HSBC was acting like a criminal bank for, among others, the murderous Mexican drug cartels. Talk about Wall Street–friendly. It's a target-rich environment.
One down, one to go, with more opportunities to follow. To Ms. Warren and all her progressive allies, congratulations. You can't win without trying to. Thanks for trying to.