Politics

Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Believe The GOP Is Really Breaking Up With Big Business

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), long one of Congress’s fiercest critics of corporate power and economic inequality, is skeptical of her Republican colleagues’ newfound desire to battle big business. 

“Actions speak louder than words,” she said on Thursday during an interview with HuffPost to promote her new book, “Persist.” “And for 40 years, the driving principle of the Republican Party in Washington has been help the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful. And that’s not an abstract proposition. They’ve done it over and over.”

In recent weeks, leading Republicans have proclaimed their independence from big business, promising an end to a political alliance that’s lasted more than a century. Though President Donald Trump’s professed populism and some Republicans’ increasing interest in antitrust enforcement had created some separation between the party and traditional business interests, much of the recent brouhaha boils down to business condemning Trump’s lies about the election, and the resulting Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and the spate of GOP voter suppression laws. 

Warren said Republicans ― who used their majorities in 2017 to pass a massive tax cut benefiting corporations ― needed to do a lot more to prove their willingness to break with big business. She pointed to legislation she’s sponsored to create a wealth tax on people with fortunes of more than $50 million and another to ensure the nation’s largest corporations pay at least a 7% corporate income tax. 

“When they say they’re willing to sign on to that, then I’ll say their love affair with corporate America may be on the wane,” Warren said. “When they say they’re ready to get on board with something other than helping the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful, then I’ll believe them. But up till then, it just sounds like a lot of words.”

The supposed breakup with big business has spread throughout the GOP: Florida Sen. Rick Scott, a former CEO, has warned “woke businesses” about a “day of reckoning.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has said he will no longer accept money from corporate PACs and “may not” take calls from corporate executives in the future. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is promoting his own book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” which promotes antitrust action against Silicon Valley giants.

Even if they were sincere, Warren said, she would struggle to work with any senator who voted to back Trump’s lies about election fraud on Jan. 6. (Scott, Cruz and Hawley all voted to reject at least one state’s election results on that day.)

“What those people did on Jan. 6 says so loud that they don’t believe in basic democracy,” she said. “I don’t know how we go forward under those circumstances. I don’t know what it means for them to come down every day in the United States Senate having done their best to knock the legs out from underneath our whole democratic structure.”

She also criticized what she saw as Hawley’s narrow focus on tech companies.

“The problem of power that is lodged with the giant corporations is important in Big Tech but much more pervasive throughout our economy,” she added. “We need strong enforcement of current antitrust laws. And if there are places where the courts can’t seem to apply them to new positions, then Congress needs to step up.”

Warren described the as-yet-unfilled position of assistant attorney general for antitrust as “critical” for President Joe Biden’s administration.

“We need someone who has the courage and the vision to get out there and enforce the current laws on antitrust,” she said. “And, yeah, that means Big Tech, but it means a whole lot more, Big Ag, Big Pharma.”

The senator declined to name whom she supports for the position, saying she did not want to “squeeze” the administration. Other progressives have backed Jonathan Kanter, a former Federal Trade Commission lawyer who has spent much of his career battling tech companies.

For more of the interview, see the video above.

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