As Elizabeth Warren battled Joe Biden over a bankruptcy bill more than a decade ago, she confided her frustrations with the Delaware senator to a progressive ally.
Then a Harvard law professor with a limited national profile, Warren had publicly accused Biden of siding with creditors over middle-class Americans drowning in medical debt and credit card bills.
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But Warren — who had become a Democrat only in 1996 — also privately described Biden as part of what was wrong with the party.
“She said something like ‘As long as people like Joe Biden are heading the party, there’s no one looking out for the little guy,’” the ally recalled, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Warren ultimately lost the fight over the bankruptcy bill. But now, the two Democratic presidential contenders’ divergent world views are set to be aired in prime time next month when they meet on a presidential debate stage for the first time.
As two of the top-polling candidates, they’ll be standing together at the center of the debate stage in Houston — a situation they dodged in the first two debates, when they were randomly assigned to different nights.
The showdown has been a long time coming. For years, Warren has seen Biden as emblematic of a Democratic Party that’s too cozy with big corporations, according to interviews with several longtime allies.
During the fight over the bankruptcy bill, Warren wasn’t shy about attacking Biden by name.
In 2002, she published an op-ed in The New York Times in which she insinuated that Biden had bowed to the pressure of banks and credit card companies in his home state to support the bankruptcy bill. The legislation, she argued, would keep people who needed to file for bankruptcy from doing so, telling The Washington Post those who supported changing the law “are the same people who would have said during a malaria epidemic that the way to cut down on hospital admissions is to lock the door.”
Another ally said that when Warren speaks about coming to Washington and realizing the majority of Democrats aren’t her allies, “she’s talking about Democrats like Biden.”