Put Up Your Dukes: Elizabeth Warren's on the Banking Committee

The newly elected Massachusetts Senator will take Wall Street to task.

The last time Elizabeth Warren went to Washington, she was tasked with overseeing the $700 billion TARP bank bailout, ensuring that every dollar was accounted for. It was a role she clearly relished, as she seized any opportunity to skewer Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in public and make Wall Street bigwigs out to be as freewheeling and reckless as drunken sailors. (Just for fun, watch these clips of her taking down corporate suits.) It didn’t win her the hearts of bankers, but her fortitude helped push through the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a completely new federal agency devoted to looking out for the financial needs of the public.

“There’s no one else around that can claim that there’s an government agency that exists just because it was their idea,” visiting Harvard law professor and Warren protege Adam Levitin told me this summer. But her bombastic takedowns got her a reputation in D.C., and when the time came to appoint the head of the new agency, Republicans balked, Obama backpedaled, and Warren, who clearly would have been thrilled to take the gig, was left in the cold.

And then she went out and won her Senate race. That move alone made financiers quake in their boots; it was “Wall Street’s worst nightmare,” reported Forbes. But things just got real: Yesterday, Warren was appointed to the Banking committee (and the Aging committee, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP committee—but let’s be honest, the banking committee is where we’re all focusing our attention), which means she can continue taking Wall Street to task as she now has the authority to regulate and oversee banking practices from her committee post.

Warren’s populist (and pugilistic) critique of big banks made her a folk hero among liberals, and it was enough to kickstart a campaign—though it certainly wasn’t enough to get her to the finish line, as it was only when she started talking about women’s issues that she truly began to edge out Senator Scott Brown. But she’s at her best when she’s talking about the need to overhauling federal bank regulations, and this is what she went to the Senate to accomplish. Get your popcorn ready because this is going to be fun to watch.