Elizabeth Warren Lost Her Dream Job but Gained a Path to 2020

“She was very realistic,” Mr. Frank said. “She was deeply engaged in talking to members and she did acquire her own sense of what was politically doable.”

Ms. Warren had less influence in the Senate, where Democrats held the majority but their ability to break a filibuster hinged on centrist legislators. So Ms. Warren turned her attention beyond the chamber, rallying activists and talking to the media. In her most provocative move, she told HuffPost that the Senate must either create a “strong consumer agency” or have “no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

“That,” Ms. Warren said recently, “is the outsider’s game.”

The Senate ultimately approved a bureau that was stronger in some ways than Ms. Warren’s 2007 proposal. Instead of a Financial Products Safety Commission, led by committee, it would be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, headed by a single director. And it would draw funding from the Federal Reserve, putting its budget beyond reach of adversaries in Congress.

Ms. Warren attended the July 2010 ceremony where Mr. Obama signed the Dodd-Frank bill into law, and with it a consumer bureau that he asked her to help set up. He designated her an aide to himself and to Mr. Geithner, with a mandate to build the regulator she had devised on paper in 2007.

There was no promise she would become the permanent director.

If Ms. Warren had won a landmark policy victory, it came at the cost of making enemies in Congress and the administration. While Mr. Geithner would criticize business groups for opposing the consumer bureau in a 2014 book, he also cast Ms. Warren as an implacable critic of the bank rescue, more focused on “made-for-YouTube” grandstanding than on crafting practical ideas. He and Mr. Summers described her in White House meetings as unreasonably hostile to financial institutions, and as simply unreasonable.

“You cannot play the role she was playing without making people mad at you,” said former Representative Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat involved in drafting Dodd-Frank. He said of the Obama economic team, “Those were folks who were used to getting their own way and not having to deal with critics at all.”

Mr. Geithner, now president of the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed. Mr. Summers, who has criticized some of Ms. Warren’s 2020 campaign proposals, did not respond to interview requests.


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