Elizabeth Warren's big victory: Investment banker withdraws Treasury nomination (but there's a catch)

Citing desire not to be a "distraction," Antonio Weiss asks president not to resubmit his nomination

Published January 12, 2015 10:30PM (EST)

Elizabeth Warren                            (AP/Timothy D. Easley)
Elizabeth Warren (AP/Timothy D. Easley)

Investment banker Antonio Weiss has withdrawn his nomination to a senior Treasury Department post, in a major victory for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who led the charge against Weiss' nomination, Politico reported Monday. However, Weiss will join the Treasury Department as a counselor to Secretary Jacob Lew.

Weiss, the head of global investment banking at Lazard and a major contributor to Democratic causes,  was President Obama's nominee to serve as undersecretary of the Treasury for domestic finance. In a letter to Obama, the erstwhile nominee requested that his nomination not be re-submitted, citing his desire not to be a distraction to the Obama administration.

“I am writing to request that the administration not re-submit my nomination,” Weiss wrote, per Politico. “I do not believe that the Treasury Department would be well served by the lengthy confirmation process my renomination would likely entail.”

In lieu of seeking confirmation to the domestic finance post, Weiss will advise Lew on domestic and international economic policy issues. He wrote that the position “will allow me to begin serving immediately in support of the Administration’s efforts to foster broad-based economic growth and ensure financial reform that protects consumers and reduces the likelihood of future financial crises."

Weiss' new role will not require Senate confirmation.

Although the Wall Street veteran will serve in the Treasury Department after all, his withdrawal from the domestic finance post represents a significant win for Warren, whose fight against Weiss' nomination became a rallying cry for those concerned about Wall Street's influence over Washington policymakers. Her success in scuttling the nomination, even if it comes with a catch, may well prompt the White House to think twice before it submits the nomination of another Wall Streeter to a senior post.

Warren's chief concern, laid out in a Huffington Post op-ed in November, was that Weiss' background in international banking ill-suited him to a domestic finance position. Additionally, Warren cited his advisory role in Burger King's merger with Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons -- a so-called corporate inversion that allowed Burger King to reduce its U.S. tax burden. More generally, the progressive firebrand also railed against the "over-representation of Wall Street banks in senior government positions."

Over the course of the past two months, assembled a diverse coalition of senators in opposition to Weiss' nomination. Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Al Franken (D-MN) joined the anti-Weiss drive, but so did centrist Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). By the time the 114th Congress reconvened, enough Democrats had announced their opposition to Weiss that he could not have been confirmed without Republican votes, although most members of the Senate GOP remained silent on the nomination, content to let Democrats duke it out.

As he prepares to assume his new job, Weiss leaves Lazard with an impressive golden parachute. After his nomination late last year, the investment bank promised him $21.2 million upon his departure from the firm.

By Luke Brinker

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