Chalk another one up for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Antonio Weiss, an investment banker who was President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 3 job at the Treasury Department, has taken his name out of consideration for the post, the White House said Monday. The news was first reported by Politico.
Warren, the firebrand Democratic senator from Massachusetts, had vehemently opposed Weiss’s nomination and led a progressive charge against him. Warren and other progressives, who have become locked in an ongoing battle over the future of the Democratic Party, argued the Lazard banker Weiss was too close to Wall Street.
“We’ve already seen that the new Republican Congress is going to aggressively attack the Dodd-Frank Act,” Warren said in a statement. “… The risk of another financial crisis remains too high, and we should be strengthening financial reforms, not rolling them back to benefit Wall Street.”
Progressive groups backing Warren’s push against Weiss cheered the news Monday evening. Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said it was a “victory for the Elizabeth Warren wing of American politics.”
Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the progressive group Democracy for America, added it was clear that the Obama administration had “heard the calls” from Warren and Democratic activists over the past few weeks.
“This is another victory for the Warren Wing of the Democratic Party over the Wall Street wing,” Chamberlain said.
“As we said from the start of this fight, Antonio Weiss’s nomination wasn’t just about an important Treasury Department post, it was about the soul of the Democratic Party. Hopefully, the White House will learn from this experience that standing up to Wall Street is both good policy and good politics and make its decisions accordingly.”
Obama nominated Weiss to become the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for domestic finance, which is the third-ranking position at the department.
Weiss is a prominent Democratic donor, having given huge sums of money to various state parties, to Democratic Sens. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and to Obama’s re-election campaign.
But Warren won over a significant amount of Democrats to her cause by attacking his ties to Wall Street and the fact that he worked overseas for much of his career in the banking sector. The Democratic defections soon multiplied. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said he would oppose Weiss. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and Al Franken (D-Minnesota), who represent a wide variety of the ideological spectrum in the party, soon joined Durbin.
White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said in a statement that Weiss over the weekend asked the president not to re-nominate him for the post in the new, Republican-controlled Senate. She said the White House “strongly believes” the opposition to his nomination was “not justified.”
“Mr. Weiss made the request to avoid the distraction of the lengthy confirmation process that his renomination would likely entail,” Friedman said. “We continue to believe that Mr. Weiss is an extremely well-qualified individual, who is committed to the policy goals of this Administration and firmly supports the Administration’s policies on fostering economic growth and supporting our middle class.
Weiss will still join the Treasury Department, albeit in the much less glamorous position of counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew — a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
Warren’s supporters were already looking ahead to a bigger campaign.
“Ultimately, tonight’s victory shows why so many in the Democratic Party are hungry for Elizabeth Warren to run for president,” Chamberlain said. “Not only is Senator Warren able to marshall the grassroots energy to achieve what too many in Washington say is impossible, but if she were president Wall Street bankers wouldn’t be at the helm of our economic policy in the first place.”
Updated with comment from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.