WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain never seemed to much care for Elizabeth Warren.
While campaigning for then-Senator Scott Brown, the Republican from Arizona criticized Warren for having “special interest allies.’’ He accused her of using “class warfare rhetoric.’’ He said she held “anti-capitalist views.’’
But politics can make strange bedfellows. And about two months ago, McCain found himself sitting with Warren inside the offices of Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, trying to work with the newly elected Democrat from Massachusetts.
Cantwell and McCain had previously filed legislation to reinstate portions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which restricted commercial banks from engaging in risky financial behavior. Now, they wanted Warren – with her seat on the Senate Banking Committee and reputation as a fiscal issue fighter — to take the lead as they refilled a new version of the bill.
“We just decided on the spot that we would do a 21st Century Glass-Steagall,’’ Warren said in an interview.
The Glass-Steagall Act dates to 1933, and it basically prevented commercial banks from engaging in investment activities. The provisions were whittled down over the years, and it was fully repealed in 1999. McCain, in fact, voted for the repeal but he has since said that the repeal helped contribute to the financial downfall in 2008.
But previous attempts to craft new regulations like Glass-Steagall have either failed or never gained enough traction for a vote.
Sometime after the meeting in Cantwell’s office, Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, was also added to the group. By Thursday, a Warren aide carried the bill by hand to be officially filed, and the group was ready to take their case public. They staged a press conference, and then McCain and Warren went to the Senate floor.
McCain went first, and praised Warren more than anyone else has in that forum.
“I’d like to thank the senator from Massachusetts, who I will freely admit has a great deal more knowledge, background, and expertise on this issue than I do,’’ McCain said. “I appreciate her leadership.’’
The man who has been in the senate for 26 years then said he was pleased to be the “junior partner’’ of the woman who’s been there for six months.
A McCain aide noted that while he preferred Brown, a fellow Republican, once Warren was elected he was happy to try and work together with her, the same way he collaborated with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy on immigration issues.
“This was something that is not quite as improbable as it might seem,’’ Warren said. “I am delighted to be John McCain’s partner in any capacity on an issue like this. He is a fighter.’’
Warren said she hoped to work with McCain on other items, but it is unclear whether they can find much other common ground. McCain vociferously opposes Dodd-Frank, the large piece of financial reform legislation that Warren played a major role in designing.
“Oh, I’d be delighted to work with him on more pieces,’’ Warren said, without elaboration.
“On this one we see eye to eye,’’ she added later. “So we’re going to fight shoulder to shoulder.’’