This article presents an unbiased comparison of the policies and political positions of U.S. senate candidates Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.
Elizabeth Warren (Democrat) challenged and defeated incumbent senator Scott Brown (Republican) in the 2012 senate election in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was a closely contested race - MA is traditionally a blue state (leans Democrat) but Scott Brown, a liberal and widely popular Republican, had overcame several odds to win the special election in 2010 when Senator Kennedy passed away.
Warren is known for being a consumer advocate, especially in the financial services industry. Her previous notable position of responsibility included overseeing the TARP bailout. Scott Brown is known for being an independent thinker. According to the Washington Post, Brown voted with the majority of Republicans 80% of the time. However, "56% of Massachusetts voters believed he has kept his promise to be an independent voice in the U.S. Senate."
edit Economic Issues
edit Tax Policy
Brown is in favor of making the Bush-era tax cuts permanent while Warren wants them to expire for those earning $250,000 or more.
Warren supports the "Buffett rule" that would require individuals earning more than $1 million to pay at least a 30% in federal income taxes. Scott Brown opposes the bill and voted against it. He is against tax increases of any kind but has indicated he supports eliminating loopholes. The Brown campaign has criticized Warren of hypocrisy for not paying the optional higher rate on her state income tax return (which is an option for everyone in Massachusetts) while supporting the Buffett rule. The Warren campaign has criticized Brown for signing Grover Norquist's tax pledge promising not to increase taxes.
edit Economic philosophy
Brown has criticized Warren for comments she made that “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.” Warren had argued that factory owners rely on government services like roads, public education, police and fire fighters. Brown believes this devalues individual initiative, the risk that entrepreneurs take and the hard work they have to do to succeed. He has said:
[for Warren to] downplay individual initiative as nothing more than a byproduct of big government is to fundamentally misunderstand our free enterprise system. Professor Warren’s twisted logic dictates that because businesspeople take advantage of government services, then they owe ‘a hunk’ of their success back to the government in the form of higher taxes. Forget about the rather large ‘hunk’ they already pay.
edit Stimulus Spending and Bailouts
Warren is in favor of government spending on infrastructure and research projects to stimulate growth. Brown opposes stimulus spending and bailouts; he supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as an effective tool to curb government spending.
Warren was appointed Chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP to oversee the distribution of funds as part of the bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis. She worked to get more transparency in the process. Her stand on bailouts is more nuanced but she has said "Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell".
In July 2012, Warren released a campaign ad calling for greater investment in roads, bridges and infrastructure. "China is making the investments in roads, communications, and power that will give a real competitive advantage to china's businesses. America's businesses deserve the same," Warren said. Brown criticized her for comparing the United States to China. "The fact that she is comparing us to China and wants us to do another stimulus bill. The first one didn't work. It's not government that is going to get us out of this. It's not a government-created job that is going to get us back on track," Sen. Brown said.
Warren's "Rebuild Now" plan, which she refuses to call a stimulus, calls for $50 billion in new spending on highway, rail, and aviation projects — including $850 million in Massachusetts, which she says would create 11,000 jobs in the state. About $30 billion would be spent to modernize schools and community colleges, which Warren says would create 4,900 jobs in Massachusetts. The plan also calls for expanding broadband Internet access, reinstating tax breaks for commuters who use public transit, a national infrastructure bank, and more flexibility for states to spend federal highway funds. Warren says the plan will not add to the debt, and will be paid for entirely by repealing $39 billion in tax breaks for oil companies, letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000 a year, and eliminating $50 billion in direct agriculture subsidies, among other measures. Brown has criticized the plan, calling it another stimulus, which he likens to the Obama administration’s $789 billion stimulus bill, a program that Brown claims has increased unemployment.
edit Mortgage Modification and Housing Policy
Warren is in favor of supporting the housing market with government funds for struggling homeowners through programs such as HAMP.
Brown opposes the use of government spending for such programs.
edit Deficit Reduction
Analysis by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has revealed that Elizabeth Warren's economic plan would reduce the federal deficit by $1.029 trillion while Brown's plan would trim it by $614.4 billion. According to Business Insider:
Warren's plan would reduce the deficit by letting the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy to expire, eliminate oil, gas, and some agriculture subsidies, raise estate taxes, and hasten the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Her plan supports federal stimulus spending and does not include any substantial entitlement reform. Brown, on the other hand, would reduce the debt by repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting the federal workforce and freezing federal pay, and cutting defense spending. He supports lowering tax rates.
Warren is a strong advocate of regulations to prevent financial crises. She has blamed deregulation in the financial services sector for financial scandals and crises like in 2008, S&L crisis, LTCM and Enron. She has also claimed that financial regulations put in place after the Great Depression were responsible for 50 years of financial stability.
Brown believes the key to economic growth is less regulation and lower taxes to foster an environment that encourages business activity and job creation.
Brown crossed party lines to cast the deciding vote in favor of the Dodd-Frank bill that aimed to "overhaul Wall Street". However, liberals have criticized him for watering down language in the bill before voting, and trying to weaken the rules after the bill was passed.
See the Women's Rights section below for information on Brown's vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.
edit JP Morgan losses
The two candidates garnered high level media attention in June 2012 over JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's appearance at a Senate Banking Committee hearing into the multibillion dollar losses by the bank from risky investments.
While Mr. Brown said Mr. Dimon should take back bonuses and commissions from employees that handled the risky investment, Ms. Warren criticized Mr. Brown's efforts to weaken federal banking rules and called on Mr. Dimon to resign his seat on the New York Federal Reserve Bank Board for allowing such high risk investment by a bank whose deposits are guaranteed by taxpayers.
edit Fishing industry regulations
Both candidates have criticized catch share regimes alleging that small business owners and fishermen are getting the short end of the stick. Brown helped form a coastal, bipartisan, bicameral coalition working with Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, the acknowledged leader of the movement. Frank also is Warren's mentor.
Brown has also exposed waste within NOAA and has led the push for accountability. He has repeatedly called for the President to replace NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. Brown has also filed and supported legislation to halt the expansion of catch share regimens.
edit Disclose Act
Warren supports the Disclose Act, a bill that would require certain nonprofit organizations to disclose their top donors. Brown voted against the bill because he, like other Republicans, believes it gives labor unions an unfair advantage over business groups (labor unions are exempt from the reporting requirements in the bill).
edit Bring Jobs Home Act
Brown crossed party lines and voted with Democrats in favor of the Bring Jobs Home bill. He said he did this to promote dialog and debate about the issue of job creation. Warren's campaign criticized him saying Republicans were able to block the bill in Congress without Brown's support, and implied that were that not the case, he would have voted with his Republican colleagues.
edit Healthcare Policy
Brown strongly opposes the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and wants to repeal it. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, Brown released a statement opposing the ruling, calling the bill unaffordable and unwanted legislation. In 2010, he won the senate seat in part on a platform of opposition to the health reform bill. He has introduced multiple bills to repeal the 2.3 percent medical device tax that would affect more than 200 medical device companies in Massachusetts. Warren has also called for a repeal of that specific part of the bill.
But other than that, Warren supports healthcare reforms and the Affordable Care Act. She has criticized Brown for hypocrisy over the matter because he has covered his 24 year-old daughter on his insurance policy through a provision in the Affordable Care Act that he opposes. She does not support privatizing Medicare or turning it into a voucher program, as that would shift healthcare costs onto seniors. She proposes negotiating for lower prescription drug prices by Medicare.
The two candidates also differ on the Blunt amendment, a controversial proposal that would have overridden the Obama Administration's new contraception coverage rule and allowed any employer to refuse to cover any kind of health care service by citing "moral reasons." Brown supported the amendment citing the conscience clause exemption while Warren opposes the amendment and supports the mandate to provide insurance coverage for contraception.
edit Energy Policy
Brown voted against a bill introduced in the Senate in March 2012 to end tax subsidies for big oil and gas companies. Democrats criticized him for this vote, noting that the oil and gas industry has pumped nearly $200,000 into Brown’s campaign.
Scott Brown supports the Keystone XL pipeline project, saying it would create jobs during construction and lower fuel prices when it's complete. Warren opposes the project, citing environmental and safety concerns.
The two candidates also differ in their views on cap-and-trade. Brown opposes it, calling it a "national energy tax" while Warren supports it to combat global warming. Brown voted in favor of barring Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases.
edit Social Issues
- Warren Aug 2011 Staunch Pro-Choice stance
- Brown Jan 2010 Supported by right-to-life groups for stem cell stance
edit Gay rights
Warren is a strong advocate of marriage equality and gay rights. She has endorsed the idea of an executive order from President Obama that would require companies doing business with the U.S. government to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies for their workers.
Warren and Brown both agree that enforcing existing laws against hiring illegal immigrants are key to any immigration policy moving forward, but the similarities basically stop there. Brown opposes the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who complete high school and obtain a higher education degree or join the military. Warren, on the other hand, supports the idea, calling it the "right" thing to do. Brown is opposed to any form of amnesty for undocumented immigrants while Warren has proposed a path to citizenship for them that includes paying a fine, paying back taxes and moving to the end of the line behind those seeking immigration through legal means. Scott Brown supports building a fence along the Mexican border while Warren does not.
Scott Brown supports the Secure Communities Act, a federal program that would allow local enforcement officials to share fingerprints with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an effort to deport criminals who are in the U.S. illegally. Warren has said she is concerned about the effect the program would have on public safety, saying the threat of deportation could prevent victims or witnesses from coming forward.
In June 2012, President Obama announced an executive order that would stop deportations for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, have no criminal record, have completed high school, and are under 30 years of age. Warren expressed support for the president's policy while Brown opposed it, saying it would create a new wave of illegal immigration.
edit Medical Marijuana
Both candidates have declined to stake out a position on legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Brown has called it a "state issue" while Warren has said she opposes outright legalization of marijuana.
edit Women's Rights
On June 4, Scott Brown, like all Republicans in the U.S. Senate, voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill's stated aim is to reduce income disparity between men and women. If passed, it would have allowed employees to disclose salary information with co-workers despite workplace rules prohibiting disclosure. Employers would be required to show that any wage discrepancies are based on genuine business requirements and are related to specific characteristics of the position that are not based on gender. The bill would also prohibit retaliation by companies against individuals who raise wage-parity issues, provide resources to help women develop their negotiating skills and would include further research to understand the lingering causes of wage discrepancies between men and women.
Warren criticized Brown for voting against the bill. Brown defended his vote by saying "As a father and husband of women in the workforce, I believe strongly in fair pay, and employers who discriminate against women should be prosecuted aggressively. The bill before the Senate today was flawed and overreaching. It’s the right cause but the wrong bill."
edit Education Policy
- Warren Sept 2011 Focus on public schools & public universities
- Brown Nov 2002 Vouchers for public, private, or religious schools
Warren has called on Congress to stop the interest rate hike on subsidized student loans (federal Stafford loans for low- and middle-income undergraduates). Rates are set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%.  She has linked the issue to certain corporation like GE being able to exploit tax loopholes and credits to pay zero tax, arguing that the federal government needs to raise more funds from such corporations in order to subsidize higher education.
Republicans and Democrats have both said they want to extend low rates for student loans but diverge on how to pay for the extension, which is estimated to cost $6 billion for one year. Republicans want to cut the preventative health-care fund which they say is ridden with wasteful spending. Democrats are proposing ended a provision in the tax code that allows small business owners to claim some income as business profits to limit the payroll taxes paid. Democrats call this closing a tax loophole and Republicans view it as a tax increase. Brown and Warren's views fall along party lines on this issue.
edit Gun Control
- Warren Aug 2011 Supports gun control
- Brown Nov 2002 Concealed carry ok; but licenses & background checks ok too
edit Civil Liberties and Homeland Security
- Warren Oct 2011 Not a good idea to strip terrorists of citizenship
- Brown Jan 2010 Supports enhanced interrogation techniques
edit Differences in Foreign Policy
In written responses to The Republican and MassLive, the candidates offered their views on foreign policy issues, which were largely similar but differed in tone and emphasis. Brown serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
edit Position on Afghanistan
Warren supports withdrawing troops as quickly as possible from Afghanistan. Brown says he supports President Obama's current plan of a gradual drawdown in troops.
edit View of the Iraq War
Warren has said it's a mistake to "put wars on a credit card for our grandchildren to pay for. If war is unavoidable and in our national interest, then we should be willing to pay for it as we fight it." Brown said that Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president, was a "murderous dictator" who had to be stopped.
edit Position on Iran
The two candidates have similar views on Iran, both being concerned with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Both are in favor of economic sanctions against Iran as well as applying political pressure.
- Warren Oct 2011 Military action possible to stop Iranian nukes
- Brown Sept 2010 Introduced bill on Iranian economic Sanctions
edit Foreign Aid
Neither Brown nor Warren seemed to be in favor of cutting foreign aid: Warren said budget cuts should start with tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, loopholes for hedge fund managers and special deals that allow some multinational companies to pay no federal income taxes. Brown said foreign aid is important for humanitarian purposes and provides leverage in negotiations involving national security for the U.S. The aid is a relatively small portion of the federal budget, but the nation should not spend anything more than necessary to accomplish those goals, Brown wrote.
edit Position on Syria
Warren and Brown both say the Assad regime should be ousted but neither is willing to commit US troops to the cause. They advocate working with other countries and keeping "all options on the table".
edit Environmental Policy
This article in the Boston Globe is a good, in-depth look at the differences between Warren and Brown on environmental issues, which include:
[Scott Brown] noted he strongly supports nuclear power and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent extension of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s operating license; wants to see more hydraulic fracking, a controversial and increasingly common method of obtaining natural gas; and favors extending the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to deliver crude oil extracted from tar sands to the Midwest, a project that has raised concerns about the potential for increasing air pollution and contaminating water supplies.
Warren supports building Cape Wind, opposes extending the Keystone Pipeline, wants more regulations to monitor fracking, and says she would have supported extending the Pilgrim nuclear plant’s operating license only if the NRC ensured it met strict safety standards first, which she argues the agency failed to do.
...both [Warren and Brown] want to see less consolidation in the state’s fishing industry, where 20% of the boats received nearly 80% of the groundfish revenue in 2010. They also both oppose efforts by Republicans in the House to roll back the Endangered Species Act.
Unlike Brown, she [Warren] said, she has taken a clear position about the need to reduce greenhouse gases as soon as possible. While she criticized Brown’s vote to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, she did not say how the country should go about cutting carbon emissions, such as through a cap-and-trade program or a gas tax, both of which could potentially reduce economic growth.
Elizabeth Warren has received endorsements from Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and League of Conservation Voters.
edit Record in public office
Warren does not have a record on environmental issues but Brown does. Highlights include:
- Brown voted to increase regulation of harmful pollutants such as mercury; cosponsored a bill to reduce the risk of oil spills; and supported legislation to protect seals and other mammals, preserve the region’s estuaries, and fund land and water conservation programs.
- As a state senator, Brown voted to impose the nation’s strongest limits on greenhouse gases and to launch the region’s landmark effort to cap carbon emissions from power plants, earning him a perfect voting record on environmental issues in the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s 2007 score card. (Brown says he now regrets supporting the region’s effort to cut greenhouse gases.)
- He has voted against multiple efforts to eliminate billions of dollars in federal subsidies for oil companies, and against requirements to improve auto fuel-efficiency standards.
- He has voted for blocking the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, and for slashing the agency’s budget by nearly a third — a bill the League of Conservation Voters described as “the greatest legislative assault ever on the environment.”
edit Plagiarism controversy
In October 2011, it was reveled that elements of Brown's story about his own upbringing and values which was posted to his website had been almost entirely copied from the biography of former Senator Elizabeth Dole.
edit Hollywood Connection
edit Tax returns
Warren has released her tax returns for the last 4 years and Brown for the past 6 years. Brown criticized Warren for not releasing -- and possibly hiding something in -- tax returns for 2006 and 2007 while Warren countered that she has released all her tax returns for the years she has held public office, while Brown has been in public office for 20 years but never released his returns until now. The New York Times opined that both candidates earned an above average income.
edit Indian Heritage
Elizabeth Warren, who has distant Native American heritage (she claims to be 1/32 native Amerian), came under heavy criticism from the GOP over why she has at times represented herself as white and other times as a minority in her law career.
She placed herself on a list of "minority" law professors in a national directory of law schools during the 1980s and early '90s, and Harvard claimed she was a native American faculty member, but by the late 1990s she had dropped her name from the directory's minority listing.
It is unclear whether she benefited at all from this self-identification as a minority. She claims she only did it to be invited to events where other native American professors congregate; and that it did not in any way affect the decision by her employers (University of Pennsylvania and Harvard) to hire her.
edit Kings and Queens
During a radio interview in June 2012, Brown was asked if it was time to move beyond questions about Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American heritage to discuss other issues. In response, he said “Each and every day that I’ve been a United States senator, I’ve been discussing issues, meeting on issues, in secret meetings and with kings and queens and prime ministers and business leaders and military leaders, talking, voting, working on issues every single day.” His campaign later said that he "misspoke".
edit Fund Raising
By the end of July 2012, Brown had raised $19.9 million and Warren had raised a staggering $24.5 million from donors across the country, making her the 15th most successful fund-raiser in Senate history.. Some Warren supporters complained about receiving too many solicitations via snail mail and email.
edit First Debate
The first debate was held on September 20. The full debate video is below:
edit Second Debate
The second debate was held on October 1 and was moderated by David Gregory. Here is the full video of that debate:
edit Third Debate
The third debate was held on October 10 at Springfield Symphony Hall. Here's the full debate video:
edit Recent News
edit Opinion Polls
All opinion polls indicate that this is an extremely close race.
|Poll source||Date(s) administered||Elizabeth Warren||Scott Brown|
|Western N.E. University||September 28–October 4, 2012||50%||45%|
|Opinion Dynamics for Mass Insight||September 25 – 30, 2012||48%||44%|
|WBUR||September 26 – 28, 2012||49%||45%|
|Boston Globe||September 21 – 27, 2012||43%||38%|
|Rassmussen Reports||September 24, 2012||48%||48%|
|UMass Lowell / Boston Herald||September 20, 2012||44%||50%|
|Kimball Political Consulting||September 20, 2012||47%||48%|
|MassINC for WBUR||September 15 – 17, 2012||45%||40%|
|UMass Lowell / Boston Herald||September 13 – 17, 2012||45%||49%|
|Suffolk/WHDH||September 13 – 16, 2012||48%||44%|
|Public Policy Polling||September 13 – 16, 2012||48%||46%|
|Western N.E. Univ.||September 6 – 13, 2012||50%||44%|
|Kimball Political Consulting||September 7 – 9, 2012||45%||46%|
|Kimball Political Consulting||August 21, 2012||43%||49%|
|Public Policy Polling||August 16 – 19, 2012||44%||49%|
|MassINC||July 19-22, 2012||40%||38%|
|Public Policy Polling||June 22-24, 2012||46%||46%|
|Western N.E. University||May 29-31, 2012||45%||43%|
|Boston Globe||May 25-31, 2012||37%||39%|
|Suffolk||May 20-22, 2012||47%||48%|
|Rasmussen Reports||May 7, 2012||45%||45%|
|Mass Inc.||Apr. 25-28, 2012||43%||41%|
|Rasmussen Reports||Apr. 9, 2012||45%||46%|
|Boston Globe||Mar. 21-27, 2012||35%||37%|
|Public Policy Polling||Mar. 16-18, 2012||46%||41%|
|Western N.E. University||Feb. 23-Mar. 1, 2012||41%||49%|
|Rasmussen Reports||Feb. 29, 2012||44%||49%|
|Suffolk/WHDH||Feb. 11-15, 2012||40%||49%|
|WBUR/MassInc||Feb. 6-9, 2012||46%||43%|
|Mass Insight/Opinion Dynamics||Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2012||42%||52%|
|Boston Herald / UMass Lowell||Dec 1 - 6, 2011||49%||42%|
|YouGov America||Nov 9 - 22, 2011||43%||39%|
|Western NE College||Sep 29 - Oct 5, 2011||42%||47%|
|UMass Lowell||Sep. 22–28, 2011||38%||41%|
|Public Policy Polling||Sep. 16–18, 2011||46%||44%|
|WBUR MassInc||Aug 30 - Sep 1, 2011||35%||44%|