March 12, 2017

Sina-cism: Warren prescribes a liberal dose of ‘No’

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Flickr / Ben Wikler

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Since January 3, 2013 — the day Elizabeth Warren put former Sen. Scott Brown in his pickup for his puzzling and peripatetic post-political pilgrimage — I have been watching the state’s allegedly senior senator for any hint of moderation.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

As compelling as Brown’s underdog story was, Massachusetts mythology includes demigod status for the Kennedy clan. The late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat was fit only for a liberal Democrat.

But does Warren represent anyone outside Boston or the Berkshires?

Consider that in 18 nomination votes taken to date on President Trump’s Cabinet picks, Warren has voted “no” 15 times. And it’s easy to understand why Warren would oppose some of Trump’s more right-leaning choices, such as Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary or Scott Pruitt at EPA.

But Elaine Chao? She served as Peace Corps director under George H.W. Bush, Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, and led the United Way.

Apparently, being married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is Chao’s unpardonable offense, for Warren articulated no legitimate reason to oppose Chao.

Warren was also among 11 senators to oppose John F. Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. Heck, even Bernie Sanders voted for Kelly.

Perhaps Democratic voters don’t want or expect Warren to break ranks with the party. Thing is, Warren puts party before her own instincts.

In late January, as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, she supported Dr. Ben Carson’s nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, saying that if “Dr. Carson doesn’t follow through on his commitments, I will be the very first person he hears from — loudly and clearly and frequently.”

The left proved a louder, clearer and more frequent voice. On March 2, Warren voted against Dr. Carson.

As for Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, Warren has already taken the fun out of the office pool by declaring she’ll oppose him.

I understand Warren is apoplectic about the election, but Gorsuch is eminently qualified. He has a stellar résumé. His writings demonstrate independent thought and suggest he is a champion of individual rights. Even some Democrats, including former Obama administration acting solicitor general Neal K. Katyal, concede that Gorsuch merits confirmation.

Of course, Sen. Warren thinks otherwise, claiming Gorsuch opposes women’s rights and favors big business. In Warren-speak, that means simply that he’s not a Democrat.

Finally, consider Warren’s position on the 21st Century Cures Act, one of the last laws signed by President Obama. The bill passed the Senate, 94-5, on Dec. 7. Warren was one of the five voting “no,” claiming the bill had been “hijacked” by pharmaceutical companies.

That’s because to Warren, who spent too many years in academia, the private sector is automatically suspect, and anything that confers the slightest advantage to private companies is a  “hijacking.”

The 21st Century Cures Act will provide $4.8 billion for biomedical research, $1 billion to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic, and strengthens rules requiring insurers cover mental health issues on par with physical health issues. And yes, it eases drug development rules. It does so for good reason.

Writing in the Winter 2017 issue of National Affairs, Thomas P. Stossel cites a study concluding that FDA approval for just one drug now takes an average of 12 years and costs more than $2.5 billion. Americans expect and deserve better.

Stossel further notes that corporate investment in medical research exceeded that conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 1990, and that three analyses “concluded that 85 percent of the drugs approved by the FDA since 1988 arose solely from research and development performed within the industry.”

The private sector is not the enemy. Bureaucracy and old-style thinking are.

During numerous forays to the gateway cities of Massachusetts, including Worcester, has Warren missed the booming biomedical sectors, both public and private? Has she overlooked the thousands dying of drug overdoses? Somehow missed that mental health services are today more important than ever?

Politics has been trumping the national interest since at least the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans squared off against the Federalist factions of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.

But is it too much to ask our senior senator to look beyond party on occasion? Once in awhile it would be nice to see someone who supposedly speaks for all Massachusetts residents put her personal agenda aside and represent the many moderates, conservatives and libertarians who happen to breathe the same air as Cantabrigians.

Chris Sinacola is a Worcester Sun columnist. His observations on politics, current events, history and more appear every Sunday.

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