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Warren Warns of Gutted Reform

Tom Asbhrook and Elizabeth Warren in Boston, June 7, 2010. (Credit: Josh Lavine for WBUR)

The fate of effective financial reform remains precarious right now, with the possibility that Washington lawmakers could produce a final bill that has “no real impact,” said Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel.

Warren, a consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor who was appointed to monitor the Wall Street bailout, said that “herds” of lobbyists are trying to pick apart the pending legislation.

 “…[T]hey’re going to get one line changed, and they’re going to get one little provision dropped, and they’re going to get one more piece compromised out,” Warren said in an interview Monday night with “On Point” host Tom Ashbrook, as part of a WBUR event. “And at the end of the day, we can all congratulate ourselves that we got something that has the right title and has no real impact.”

This week, House and Senate negotiators are coming into conference committee to begin working out a final reform bill.

Warren said the odds are “good” that substantial reform, including the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, could still come out of the Congressional negotiations. But she also warned that the process could prove a “complete waste of time.”  

“If you pick all of the worst parts from the House version and the Senate version, walk out, because it’s not worth it at that point,” she said.

Elizabeth Warren before the Senate Finance Committee in 2009. (AP)

Asked how she was dealing with pressure from Democrats who might want her to “bless” any compromise bill they produce, she said she would call it as she sees it.

“Just once in a while, there have to be independent voices that are really willing to say, ‘I’m sorry, you guys labored hard and you’ve brought forth a mouse. This one doesn’t work.’”

Ashbrook also asked her about the role of prominent women in Washington who are trying to address the financial crisis and its fallout. Time magazine recently featured Warren on its cover as one of three female “Sheriffs of Wall Street,” along with SEC chair Mary Shapiro and FDIC chair Sheila Bair.

“Let’s face it. There’s still no line in the ladies’ room,” Warren said. “My view on this is that…if you’re my age, and you get to where I am, you’re an outsider…You’ve actually either decided you’re going to get tough or die.”

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