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Wed Dec 25, 2013 at 06:35 PM PST

The year in Elizabeth Warren

by Joan McCarter

Reposted from Daily Kos by Frank Whitaker
Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat for Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren addresses supporters during her victory rally in Boston, Massachusetts, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ELEC
For an awful lot of us, the highlight of the 2012 election was Elizabeth Warren's victory over Scott Brown in Massachusetts. That's because of moments like this, from the campaign:

"You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

She hasn't veered from that philosophy, and she sure hasn't disappointed in her first year as a U.S. Senator. Jump below the fold for just a few highlights of her first year in the Senate.
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Reposted from ProgressiveLiberal by Frank Whitaker

In the approximately two minutes that Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke on All In with Chris Hayes, she articulated the Democratic message that every Democrat running for office must turn into muscle and reactive memory. Sen. Warren was on the show to talk about her new bill, the Equal Employment for All Act that would prevent employers from discriminating against Americans with poor credit ratings. She successfully made the case that employers checking credit ratings of potential employees disproportionately affect the poor and the middle class. It further damages potential employee credit as they are unemployed for a longer time or may have to settle for low wage jobs.

Hayes could not have Sen. Warren on the show without pivoting to her populist propensity. He asked her if there is an Elizabeth Warren wing of the party that she leads. She humbly dismissed the personalization of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. “This isn’t about me,” she said. “This is about the issues about what’s happening to America’s families.”

Sen. Warren went on to say that America’s hardworking families have been hammered on for a generation as a the result of supply side economics. She then enumerated the specific issues they are dealing with like declining wages, core expenses, housing, healthcare, daycare, and college, then tying it to how the middle class has coped so far. Everyone in the household has to work. When that is not enough, they get into debt. And for that debt, they are exploited by a predatory credit industry that make huge profits on their backs. She said no longer can a parent tell their kids they will be better off.

Hayes detailed a sad truth. The middle class decline occurred under both Democratic and Republican rule. This can be attributed to a Democratic party that for all practical purposes has kept supply side economics in effect. Hayes asked if Democrats had done enough. Sen. Warren demonstrated her political bona fides. She did not address past Democratic middle class failures. Instead, she said Democrats must be forward looking and fight for the middle class.

Please read below the fold for more on Sen. Warren's views.

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Reposted from Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees by Frank Whitaker

As you probably already know, Wall Street hacks from Third Way recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the economic populism of figures like Elizabeth Warren. As to be expected, professional centrists and corporate panderers like Ron Fournier and Mike Allen were big boosters of the piece.

Although Third Way bills itself as a Democratic think tank, it should, more appropriately, be called a Wall Street think tank. Wall Street has no inherent party allegiance; it's allegiance is to its own self-interest. Here at the Daily Kos, Hunter pointed out how just about every single member of the Third Way board of trustees is an investment banker. Lee Fang at The Nation highlighted how the group gets its money from corporate lobbying firms and GOP donors:

Buried inside the annual report for Third Way is a revelation that the group relies on a peculiar DC consulting firm to raise half a million a year: Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart. Peck Madigan is no ordinary nonprofit buckraiser. The group is, in fact, a corporate lobbying firm that represents Deutsche Bank, Intel, the Business Roundtable, Amgen, AT&T, the International Swaps & Derivatives Association, MasterCard, New York Life Insurance, PhRMA and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others.

The two organizations complement each other well. Peck Madigan signs as a lobbyist for the government of New Zealand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal; Third Way aggressively promotes the deal. Peck Madigan clients push for entitlement cuts, and so does Third Way.

Notice that Humana, a major health insurance company, lists its $25,000 donation to Third Way not as a donation to a think tank but as part of its yearly budget spent on lobbying activity, up there with the Florida Chamber and other trade associations. The company views financial gifts to Third Way as part of its strategy for increasing its profit-making political influence.

What’s more, Third Way’s leadership has tenuous connections to the Democratic Party it hopes to shape. Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager listed as a trustee on Third Way’s 2012 annual disclosure, bundled $556,031 for Mitt Romney last year. Third Way board member Derek Kaufman, another hedge fund executive, also gave to Romney.

If Wall Street is going to attack Warren via their lackeys at Third Way, Warren is going to come right back at them. Today, she sent a letter to the CEOs of JP Morgan & Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley--the nation's six largest financial institutions--urging them to disclose their financial contributions to think tanks.  They are required by law to disclose information about their lobbying. Although they are not currently required by law to disclose information about their donations to think tanks, their donations to think tanks effectively serve the same purpose.
Dear Mr. Dimon, Mr. Moynihan, Mr. Corbat, Mr. Stumpf, Mr. Blankfein , and Mr. Gorman:

Five years ago, the "Too Big to Fail" status of America's largest financial institutions led to the near-collapse of the economy and massive government bailouts.  That crisis was the result of reckless activity on Wall Street and regulatory failures in Washington.  As Wall Street loaded up on risk, regulators failed to identify and to respond to warning signs in the mortgage market and across the financial system.

To avoid repeating those mistakes, and to prevent future crises, policymakers need access to objective, high-quality research, data, and analysis about our consumer and financial markets. As you know, private think tanks are extremely well-suited to provide this research and analysis, but for it to be valuable, such research and analysis must be truly independent. If the information provided by think tanks is little more than another form of corporate lobbying, then policymakers and the public should be aware of the difference.

As you know, your institutions are free to express your views to lawmakers and regulators through your lobbying efforts and those of the trade associations that represent you. But the law requires that there be transparency around your direct efforts to influence policymaking through lobbying, with disclosures about your lobbying expenditures.  Under current law, however, your institutions are permitted to make financial contributions to think tanks without any similar public disclosure. This means that you can make enormous contributions that threaten both the independence and public credibility of the work of think tanks out of the public view.

I am writing to encourage you to voluntarily disclose financial contributions your institutions make to think tanks.  In my view, policies by your institutions to conceal those contributions from public view are wrong.  Greater transparency will benefit your shareholders, policymakers, and, ultimately, the public.

As the CEOs of public companies, you have an obligation to expend corporate resources only in ways that advance the interests of your shareholders.  For that reason, I believe your shareholders have a right to know both which think tanks your companies are supporting and the extent of that support so that they can assess for themselves whether they benefit from these contributions.

When you use corporate resources to support think tanks, there are only two possible outcomes from public disclosure-those contributions do not influence the work of the think tanks or those contributions do influence the think tanks' research and conclusions. Either way, shareholders have a right to know how corporate resources are spent, and, even more importantly, policymakers and the public should be aware of your contributions and evaluate the work of the think tanks accordingly.

To be clear, your institutions have every right under the law to give financial support to think tanks, and think tanks have every right to accept that support. But just as there is transparency around your direct efforts to influence policymaking through lobbying, the same transparency should exist for any indirect efforts you make to influence policymaking through financial contributions to think tanks.

I very much hope that your institutions work to set a new standard in this area by voluntarily disclosing the contributions you make to think tanks.  I am confident that by increasing public disclosure, your companies can generate goodwill from shareholders, policymakers, and the public that will serve your long-term interests and the long-term interests of the American people.

I would be happy to discuss this issue with you further, and I hope you reach out to my office if you are interested in doing so.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Warren
U.S. Senator

When the Washington Post criticized the PCCC's campaign to expand Social Security, Elizabeth Warren followed up the next day with an excellent floor speech in rebuttal. It's always good to see her fight back.
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Reposted from Dartagnan by Frank Whitaker

Read this and feel good.

The Los Angeles Times credits elimination of the filibuster for judicial nominees to a new class of Democrats on the ascendancy in the U.S. Senate--the "Elizabeth Warren" wing of the Party as described by one observer. While Harry Reid tried to tamp down the enthusiasm after this week's historic action, these Democrats have made it clear they have only just begun to fight.

The Times calls them

[P]art of a new breed of Democrats emerging in the Senate. Mostly elected after 2006, these relative newcomers have only known a Democratic-controlled Senate and have little experience with successful bipartisan cooperation, due largely to the tea party's grip on the Republican Party.

Now they are hoping to become a new power center in the party, nudging the old guard to adopt more aggressive tactics in pursuit of legislative goals and largely brushing aside Republican threats of retaliation and obstruction. They see the rules and traditions of the Senate as having stifled the will of the majority and stalled President Obama's agenda.

What drives this "new breed" of aggressive, unabashedly liberal Senate Democrats? They've all had enough of the antics of the folks on the other side of the aisle. Here's Christopher Murphy, D-CT:
"There's a time to reach across the aisle and there's a time to hold the line," said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), the body's youngest member at 40, who was elected in 2012. "And I think so far this year Democrats in the Senate have done a very good job of mixing across-the-aisle compromise with some heretofore unseen spine-stiffening."

The time has come for Democrats to take a harder stance against the tea party Republicans, he said.

"These folks have come to Washington to destroy government from within and will use any tool at their disposal," Murphy said. "To the extent that we have the ability to take tools away from the tea party, we should do it. And one of the tools was the filibuster. Another was the belief that Democrats would cave in the face of another shutdown or debt default."

When was the last time you heard about any Democratic Senator or Representative other than Harry Reid making the national news?  While Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and the entire Tea Party caucus in the House have all transformed themselves into political Kardashians, constantly mugging for the cameras with their latest outrage du jour-- the Democrats--particularly those in the Senate who wield actual majority power--have for the most part sat quietly by for the last five years and endured this nonsense.  Many of them, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Tom Udall, were elected in 2006 and 2008; Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy, in 2012. By 2015 half of the Democratic caucus will have been in place since 2008. They represent a generational shift in the Senate that has known nothing but Tea Party intransigence--and ignorance--from the other side.  

They're fed up and they're taking over the Party:

The senators' influence has already been seen in other fights, most recently in the 16-day shutdown, when new Democrats lobbied party leaders to stand up to Republicans — a tactic that seemed to shock many on the other side of the aisle, who were betting that Democrats would blink first.


Next on their agenda is extending the filibuster rule change from presidential appointments to legislation, which would enable the Senate to move on issues including gun control and climate change
.
Filibuster reform for legislation may be a bridge too far for some in the Democratic caucus. But isn't it nice to have Democrats actually proposing it?

The Times article also credits the "new breed" of Senate Democrats with advancing Janet Yellen as opposed to Lawrence Summers to the Fed.

"The Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party definitely are showing that they have growing influence in the caucus, and in government in general," said Matt Wall of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that works to promote progressive candidates and issues in Democratic primaries.
Of course, all of this has flummoxed Senate Republicans used to seeing Democrats roll over and play nice. The very fact that the Democrats aren't falling all over themselves to apologize for their actions seems to unnerve them:
The shift among Democrats has at times confounded Republicans, particularly on the filibuster issue. Aides to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the third-longest-serving Republican, said they had felt that Reid's most recent moves telegraphing the nuclear option were a bluff.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday railed against the actions of "uninitiated newcomers in the Democratic caucus," reminding them they had never served in the minority in the Senate. Those who have a longer memory "should know better," he added.

McConnell should talk to his own caucus about "uninitiated newcomers." What he conveniently forgets is that these Democrats are simply the natural antidote to the poison his own Party brought into the chamber and peddled relentlessly these last five years. When the brilliant minds at Americans For Prosperity hatched the "Tea Party," they should have kept in mind Newton's Third Law of Motion.

But that would require them to believe in science.

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Reposted from jpmassar by Frank Whitaker


... Social Security is rapidly become the only, the only lifeline that seniors have to keep their heads above water... Instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are fighting to cut benefits...

Supporters of Chained CPI say it is a more accurate way of measure cost increases for seniors.  This statement is simply not true... Pure and simple, chained CPI is just a fancy way of saying "cut benefits."

...

At its core, this is a conversation about our values... We support the right of every person to retire with dignity.

Tell me again why this woman should not be running for President.
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Reposted from Joan McCarter by Frank Whitaker
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questions U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen (not pictured) during a Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing on Yellen's nomination to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, on Capitol Hill in Washington November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTX15DNH

Judicial nominations haven't been at the forefront of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's tenure so far in the U.S. Senate. She's not on the Judiciary Committee, and most of her work has been focused on the committee on which she does sit—Banking. From that perch, she's proven herself committed to being the populist watchdog she promised she would be in her campaign.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that when Warren blasted the latest Republican filibuster of a judicial nominee, she framed the debate [pdf] in the terms of economic power.

Republicans now hold the dubious distinction of having filibustered all three women that President Obama nominated to D.C. Circuit. Now, collectively, these three women have diverse experiences in private practice, in government, and in public interest law. Between them, they have argued an amazing 45 cases before the Supreme Court, and have participated in many more. All three have the support of a majority of Senators. So why have they been filibustered?

The reason is simple. They are caught in a fight over the future of our courts—fight over whether the courts will be a neutral forum that decides every dispute fairly, or whether the courts will be stacked in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. [...] The D.C. Circuit is a particular target because that court has the power to overturn agency regulations. If a business doesn’t like it when the agencies implement the will of Congress, they try to undermine those agencies through the D.C. Circuit. [...]

We need to call out these filibusters for what they are: naked attempts to nullify the results of the last Presidential election—to force us to govern as though President Obama hadn’t won the 2012 election. [...]

If Republicans continue to filibuster these highly qualified nominees for no reason other than to nullify the President’s Constitutional authority, then senators not only have a right to change the filibuster rules—senators have a duty to change the filibuster rules.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader filed a motion for a cloture vote on the nomination of Richard Wilkins, the third of President Obama's D.C. Circuit nominees. Republicans have already blocked two women, Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard, setting up a vote for early next week. They will block Wilkins, not because he's not qualified to sit on the court, but because they don't want this court to have any more Obama appointees because, as Warren says, these appointees could thwart the ambitious of big business.

That will be one more filibuster Harry Reid can use to convince Democratic senators that it is, as Warren says, their duty to change the filibuster rules.

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Reposted from Frank Whitaker by Frank Whitaker

Barack Obama raised $25 million in the first quarter of 2007.

That quarter began almost two years before the general election in 2008, and about a year before the first primaries.

What does that mean to the reform/progressive wing of the Democratic Party in general and in particular supporters of Elizabeth Warren?

It means that we have to raise even more than $25 million in the first quarter of 2015, or we will be buried by the oceanic influx of money unleashed by Citizens United, and the next election will be contested between yet another "centrist" Democrat and whatever trash the Republicans puke up on the ballot.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Frank Whitaker

From labor's role in building the American middle class to the ways unions fight not just for their members but for all working Americans, Elizabeth Warren gets it. Love her so much!
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Reposted from In the (K)now by Frank Whitaker

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has, with three co-sponsors, introduced major new legislation that might just help avoid another financial meltdown like the one in 2008.
A bill she calls a “new 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to once again separate ordinary banking from the high-risk activities that broke our economy” needs our support.

I blogged about it this morning at
 “Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes major banking overhaul.”

“The bill gives the financial institutions five years to split their commercial and investment businesses into distinct entities – shrinking the size of our big banks and taking an important step toward ending ‘Too Big to Fail,’ ” she writes in an appeal for support from Russ Finegold’s “Progressives United.”
Sen. Warren is appealing for our help.

CALL FOR ACTION
Sign up as a citizen co-sponsor of Sen. Warren’s bill.
Click here to do so.

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Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 08:35 PM PDT

Elizabeth Warren is a Hero!

by bookwoman

Reposted from bookwoman by Frank Whitaker

OK....my husband is not the best business person in the universe. He extends credit to his customers and then seems to endlessly cover their lack of payment with his own money (meaning money that should have gone into the family funds). But, still, I love him and have tried desperately to support him in his endeavor to build a small business. However, it became absolutely untenable when Chase Bank raised his rates to an over 27% interest rate. It was like Jonah swallowing the whale. No matter how many ways he tried to rework the credit card debt, reduce the interest, try to reel this catastrophe in, he continued to scramble to figure out a way to pay these overwhelming payments.

Chase, from India, called relentlessly, twice or more times a day. If my husband had had a serious heart condition I truly believe he would have died many times over from the emotional assault being perpetrated on him with these phone calls.

And then along came Elizabeth Warren. There is now something called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau thanks to her BOLD actions. You can actually speak to a real human being who will take all your information and listen to you as a serious consumer simply trying to do the right thing.

My husband had finally worked out a deal with Chase, in which he would pay them 4 installments of $500 each and Chase had agreed to close the debt at that point. Yes, there was still additional money owed but Chase agreed to forgive that money if these 4 payments were made. However, according to Chase, the final payment was made ONE day late (although they kept changing the dates so as to make it almost impossible to figure out what that date actually was). That was the end of the "deal".

Then a collection agency got involved. One day late (and questionable too)...and this was turned over to a collection agency? They called day after day. We had no idea what to do at this point. We simply figured that we'd have to pay the remaining amount as we were fighting Goliath.

So along comes the CFPB and my husband, with nothing left to lose, contacted them to see what could possibly be done. They knew exactly what to ask for, as far as paperwork, background information, etc. Once that was submitted my husband simply explained to the collection agency that the matter was now in the hands of the CFPB. At that point they said they would send the matter back to Chase, no more phone calls from the agency.

Today....Chase called to say that they had "reviewed the case again" and decided that the original agreement would stand. The point is that there is now a way to have a fighting chance to make a case against big banks....banks who have been predatory, able to raise rates indiscriminately, harass customers all the way from India customer call centers at all times of day and night.

We are grateful, beyond belief, for what Elizabeth Warren has done. When she sat there in DC with the biggest grin imaginable, knowing that her consumer protection bureau was a "done deal" I never really considered that it would work for a small, little business like my husband's. But today...Chase called and said they would stop all proceedings. They have accepted the original terms and we are back in good standing only because of a courageous woman named Elizabeth. Thank you Senator Warren!

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Reposted from Joan McCarter by Frank Whitaker
Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren addresses delegates during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 5, 2012.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The most terrifying woman in Washington.
Governed by who knows what alignment of the stars or conventional wisdom, this was the weekend that traditional media decided to take a collective dump on Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Maybe it had something to do with her temerity of being both a woman and smarter than the CNBC team. That, for many, is just not acceptable.

That includes Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, who has somehow entirely forgotten that Warren is responsible for the very existence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and sniffs that in her six months in office, she hasn't passed any laws. (Apparently, Beam is working under the bizarre notion that the Senate actually does stuff these days.) Instead, he says, she's been the "Big Noise," "pandering," "baying at the moon," "silly," and a "feckless demagogue." No, no condescension or sexism there. Or in Beam's suggestion that Warren's introduction of a new Glass-Steagall bill means that she doesn't understand that there's a difference between banks and the financial sector. It's a column that is so ham-handed and overtly hostile you'd think it had come out of D.C., and not Boston.

But, of course, Politico has the D.C. angle covered, and in the guise of a news story rather than an editorial, which make its hit job all the worse. Consider their premise: "Warren’s causing some heartburn among her fellow Democrats." Here's what her fellow Democrats had to say about her in the story, which is primarily about her efforts to keep a fair student loan interest rate:

The substance and style of Warren’s challenges to the country’s financial system have made her a favorite of her party’s liberal wing. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) was effusive in his praise for Warren, whom he called a like-minded lawmaker on the ideological spectrum.

“Sometimes I just — how can we be so lucky? I mean that sounds pretty gooey, I admit, but I mean it,” Rockefeller said. [...]

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, signed on to the [student loan] deal but said he sympathized with Warren’s arguments.

“I think she’s onto something,” he said. [...]

“I respect Elizabeth’s point of view and her intelligence when it comes to this issue. She is challenging some basic premises of the student loan program,” Durbin told POLITICO. “I would join her in those challenges, but I’m trying to work within the world of political reality.”

The only people Politico quotes as having "heartburn" because of Warren are Republicans.

Rounding out the gossip about D.C.'s reaction to Warren is The Hill which is full of stories about how she's not fitting in in the "clubby Senate," and the real problem many of her colleagues might have with her: She asked for and got Sen. Ted Kennedy's desk in the Senate chamber. Seriously.

The Village and its hangers-on must be really scared of Warren's ability to shake that world up if they're expending so much effort to try to marginalize her. And with good reason—she's an outsider with the brains and the grit and the determination to change the status quo. She might not have the Village, but that probably doesn't bother her too much. She's got the rest of the country behind her.

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Reposted from Upper West by Frank Whitaker

It's been quite a day for Elizabeth Warren.  First, her CFPB finally gets its director, after Reid plus 50 finally show some cojones. Then she appears on CNBC's The Squawk Box and responds to the hostile and ill-informed questioning of that crew, and as Charles Pierce put it:

The next thing they knew, they were sprawled on the canvas, and somebody was waving ammonia capsules under their noses, and Mills Lane was standing above them, waving his arms.

(NB - Mills Lane is the legendary boxing ref and TV Judge)

Summary (with interpolations):

Squawk woman:  Won't a new Glass Stegall hurt credit creation?
Sen. W:  For 50 years we had no banking crisis because of regulation like it.

Squawk man:  Aren't banking crises inevitable?  Shouldn't people just live with them?
Sen. W: (I'm sure trying not to answer simply "Are you f3$%@ng kidding me):  It is possible to avoid those crises as we did for 50 years.

Squawk man:  But what about Continental Illinois, huh, huh, huh?
Sen. W.:  I said 50 years (trying not to say "you idiot") until de-regulation in the '80s.

Squawk man:  But with all due respect Senator, this doesn't have a chance of passing.  Why, look at the House repealing Obamacare 38 times. (In other words, why even try????)
Sen. W.: (doing a great job of not looking incredulous and gobsmacked):  Due respect yourself, Senator but that's what they said about the CFPB, which has been helping people and just got its director today.  Even John McCain supports it.  Are you saying why even try?  What kind of idiot attitude is that? (OK -- the last part was implied.)

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