Elizabeth Warren on attack vs. Obama Treasury pick

Sen. Elizabeth Warren
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is going full throttle against President Barack Obama's nominee for a key Treasury Department position.

Speaking to supporters at various locales this week, the Massachusetts firebrand launched withering attacks against Antonio Weiss, the Lazard mergers and acquisitions specialist who Obama nominated as Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance. Warren labeled him as a Wall Street insider, a group she said is in too great a supply in Washington power circles.

"We'd all scratch our heads if the president nominated a theoretical physicist to be surgeon general just because she had a background in science," Warren said Tuesday at the Managing the Economy conference in Washington, according to a report in The New Republic. "It's no less puzzling to nominate an international mergers specialist to handle largely domestic issues at Treasury because he has a background in finance."

The report analyzed Warren's campaign against Weiss within the context of a potential 2016 presidential run she has insisted isn't happening. Her populist base is pushing for her to jump into a Democratic primary contest that is expected, at least at this point, to be dominated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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But The New Republic, which described the Warren broadside against Weiss as "her boldest yet," said her supporters aren't giving up, and she appears to be playing to the crowds:

By the end of the speech, you've almost forgotten the name of Antonio Weiss, and are left wondering about the power center Warren is building in the Senate. The Weiss nomination offers a teachable moment, but it fits inside her framework of an economy rigged for elite interests. He was simply the unlucky ex-banker who walked through the revolving door at the wrong time.

Warren apparently also was banging the anti-Weiss drum at an event Sunday in Boston.

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While the main theme was her opposition to Weiss, Warren's future political ambitions seem to be only slightly in the background, sources told Politico, which described the meeting as between the senator and "50 of her top Boston-area donors."

The get-together, which was not a fundraiser but instead a chance for the Massachusetts Democrat to tend to her donor supporters, came as some Democrats continue to plead with Warren to launch a 2016 presidential campaign.

Warren did not get asked about whether she plans to run, or face new suggestions that she should, according to people on hand for the event, which was held at the home of the senator's supporter Cheryl Cronin. But she did discuss Weiss, the head of global banking at Lazard and Obama's pick for Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance, whom she opposes.

Warren isn't alone in her criticisms of Weiss.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said Weiss is unqualified, while former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chief Sheila Bair also said the nominee is too close to Wall Street, according to the Huffington Post.

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Weiss could not be reached for comment.