Senate freshmen: What the 14 new members bring to Capitol Hill

Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts

Michael Dwyer/AP/File
Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, during an election night rally in Boston.

Will Sen. Elizabeth Warren be able to live up to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s legacy?

“It was exactly 50 years ago tonight that Ted Kennedy was first elected to the United States Senate,” Ms. Warren told supporters on election night. “We miss his passion, his commitment, his energy, and his fight for working families.”

During the campaign, Warren continually criticized her opponent, Sen. Scott Brown, for caring more about “tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires” than working, middle-class families in Massachusetts. Warren, who raised more money than any other Senate candidate, defeated Brown by 7.4 percentage points in one of the most watched races of 2012.

Although Senator Brown shared Kennedy’s bipartisanship strategy, his conservative values did not suit Massachusetts’ traditional liberalism, wrote the Boston Globe in its endorsement for Warren.

“She’s a relentless striver whose life story represents the best of American upward mobility,” the editorial said. “As a young mother, she worked her way through community colleges and state universities to become the nation’s top expert on financial consumer protection.”

As a lawyer, Warren specialized in bankruptcy law, and she met many middle-class families struggling to make ends meet. These interactions inspired her to switch from being a Republican to a Democrat in 1996.

In 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed Warren to chair the congressional oversight panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), working for both the Bush and Obama administrations. She is also credited with the development of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency set up to educate consumers on the potential pitfalls of certain financial agreements including mortgages, credit cards, and other loans. She also taught at Harvard Law School for 20 years.

Warren will bring her policy and financial expertise to the Senate Banking Committee. She was also assigned to the Aging and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committees.

“Working families have been getting slammed,” Warren told the National Journal in an interview. “Washington has been rigged to work for those who can hire an army of lawyers and an army of lobbyists.”

Yet to be determined is whether Warren will be able to work across the political aisle as Kennedy was able to do.

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