Elizabeth Ann Warren* (née Herring) was born on June 22, 1949, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the fourth child of middle-class parents Pauline (née Reed, 1912–1995) and Donald Jones Herring (1911–1997). Warren has described her family as teetering “on the ragged edge of the middle class” and “kind of hanging on at the edges by our fingernails.” She had three older brothers and was raised Methodist.
Warren lived in Norman until she was 11 years old, when the family moved to Oklahoma City. When she was 12, her father, a salesman at Montgomery Ward, had a heart attack, which led to many medical bills as well as a pay cut because he could not do his previous work. He later worked as a custodian for an apartment building. Eventually, the family’s car was repossessed because they failed to make loan payments. To help the family finances, her mother found work in the catalog order department at Sears. When she was 13, Warren started waiting tables at her aunt’s restaurant.
Warren became a star member of the debate team at Northwest Classen High School and won the state high school debating championship. She also won a debate scholarship to George Washington University at the age of 16. She initially aspired to be a teacher, but left GW after two years in 1968 when she was 19 to marry Jim Warren, whom she met in high school.
Warren and her husband moved to Houston, where he was employed by IBM. She enrolled in the University of Houston and graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology.
The Warrens moved to New Jersey when Jim received a job transfer. She soon became pregnant and decided to remain at home to care for their daughter. After the child turned two, Warren enrolled in Rutgers Law School at Rutgers University–Newark. Shortly before graduating in 1976, Warren became pregnant with their second child. She received her J.D. and passed the bar examination.
The couple divorced in 1978. Two years later, Warren married Bruce H. Mann, a law professor, but kept her first husband’s surname.
During law school, Warren worked as a summer associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. After she received her J.D. and passed the bar examination, she decided to perform legal services from home, writing wills and doing real estate closings. In the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Warren taught law at several American universities while researching issues related to bankruptcy and middle-class personal finance. She became involved with public work in bankruptcy regulation and consumer protection in the mid-1990s.
Warren began her academic career as a lecturer at Rutgers University, Newark School of Law (1977–78). She then moved to the University of Houston Law Center (1978–83), where she became an associate dean in 1980 and obtained tenure in 1981. She taught at the University of Texas School of Law as visiting associate professor in 1981, and returned as a full professor two years later (staying from 1983 to 1987). She was also a visiting professor at the University of Michigan in 1985 and a research associate at the Population Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin in 1983–87. During this period Warren also taught Sunday school.
Early in her career Warren became a proponent of on-the-ground research into how people respond to laws. Her work analyzing court records and interviewing judges, lawyers, and debtors, established her as a leading expert in the field of bankruptcy law.
Warren joined the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a full professor in 1987 and obtained an endowed chair in 1990, becoming the William A. Schnader Professor of Commercial Law. In 1992, she taught for a year at Harvard Law School as Robert Braucher Visiting Professor of Commercial Law. In 1995, Warren left Penn to become Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
From 2006 to 2010 Warren was a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion. She also served as a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, an independent organization that advises the U.S. Congress on bankruptcy law, is a former vice president of the American Law Institute and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 2012, Warren was elected to the Senate in Massachusetts. She is the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. She was reelected in 2016.
Committee on Armed Services
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Special Committee on Aging
In 2014, Warren visited Israel.
She is the author of three books and coauthor of six: As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America (1989), The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt (2001) with Teresa A. Sullivan and Jay Westbrook, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke (2004) with Amelia Warren Tyagi, All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan (2006) with Warren Tyagi, Casenote Legal Briefs: Commercial Law (2006) with Lynn M. LoPucki, Daniel Keating, Ronald Mann, and Normal Goldenberg, The Law of Debtors and Creditors: Text, Cases, and Problems, 6th edition (2008) with Westbrook, Chapter 11: Reorganizing American Businesses: Essentials (2008), Secured Credit: A Systems Approach (2008) with Lynn M. LoPucki, A Fighting Chance (2014), and This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class (2017).
On February 9, 2019, Warren announced her candidacy for president in the 2020 election.
Foreign Policy Advisers
Ganesh Sitaraman is a Vanderbilt law professor.
Re three arson attacks in one week in suburbs outside of Boston in May 2019, Warrant tweeted: “These actions are meant to inspire fear in places of worship and joy. But we won’t let that happen. By coming together to stand against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, our communities will only grow stronger.” (@SenWarren, May 17, 2019)
- Re controversy of anti-Semitic remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar: “We have a moral duty to combat hateful ideologies in our own country and around the world—and that includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” she wrote. “In a democracy, we can and should have an open, respectful debate about the Middle East that focuses on policy. Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Threats of violence — like those made against Rep. Omar — are never acceptable.” (Forward, March 7, 2019)
- Warren was one of 22 Democrats who voted against the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (76 senators voted aye) a bill that authorizes state and local governments to demand that contractors declare they do not support boycotts of Israel or its settlements in the West Bank. She said, “I oppose the boycott. But I think penalizing free speech activity violates our Constitution, so I oppose this bill.” (JTA, February 8, 2019)
Two women approached the Senator at an event and said, “Hi we're American Jews. We really love the way you’re fighting corruption. We’d really love it if you also pushed the Israeli government to end occupation.”
“Yes. Yes. I’m so there,” Warren responded, and then ushered them into position for a photo. (Washington Examiner, July 9, 2019)
Asked to defend her decision to support legislation to provide emergency funding for the Iron Dome air defense system, Warren said, “America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, a part of the world where there aren’t any liberal democracies,” she said, adding that Israel had been attacked “indiscriminately” with projectiles “aimed not at military targets but at anybody they can hit in Israel — the fundamental notion of terrorism.”
“When Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”
When asked by a constituent whether U.S. funding should be conditional on Israel’s agreement to stop building settlements, Warren responded: “I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.”
In December 2017, she said that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” but “neither the U.S. nor any other outside power should impose a solution, and that is why I am concerned about Trump’s decision [to move the U.S. embassy], which I believe makes it more difficult to reach that goal.”
In 2018, she said she was “deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries” at the Gaza border and called on the Israel military to “exercise restraint and respect the rights of Palestinians to peacefully protest.”
In June 2019, Warren expressed support for a proposed Senate resolution that says “unilateral annexation of portions of the West Bank would jeopardize prospects for a two-state solution, harm Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors, threaten Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity, and undermine Israel’s security.”
Warren said that “branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.” (Haaretz, June 27, 2019)
Asked by the New York Times, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” Warren responded, “I think that Israel is in a really tough neighborhood. I understand that. They face enormous challenges, and they are our strong ally. We need a liberal democracy in that region and to work with that liberal democracy. But it is also [the] case that we need to encourage our ally, the way we would any good friend, to come to the table with the Palestinians and to work toward a permanent solution. I strongly support the two-state solution, and I believe that a good friend says to the Palestinians and to the Israelis: come to the table and negotiate. The United States cannot dictate the terms of a long-term settlement for the Palestinians and the Israelis, but what it can do is urge both of them to go there and to stay out of the way — to let them negotiate the pieces that are most important to them for a lasting peace. The current situation is not tenable. It may be tenable for a week, it may be tenable for a month, but it is not in the long-term interest of either the Israelis or the Palestinians to continue on the path they are on. They need to come to a two-state solution.” (New York Times, June 19, 2019)
- In June 2019, Warren and several other senators submitted a resolution to the Senate expressing opposition to Israeli annexation of the West Bank. (Haaretz, (June 7, 2019)
- “Israel is a strong ally, an important friend to the United States. Good friends can disagree and candid expression of concerns does not diminish our friendship, we can and should have an open policy debate.” (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 3, 2019)
- “First embracing right-wing extremism. Now manipulating a free press, accepting bribes, and trading government favors. The allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu are serious and cut to the heart of a functioning democracy.”
“Corruption — in Israel, in the US, or anywhere else — is a cancer that threatens democracy. We need to fight back. And we can start by having the courage to call it out wherever it occurs. Even among our allies.” @ewarren, February 27, 2019)
- “I think the way we can be a good ally to Israel is we can push again toward a two state solution toward a long term solution in this area and look I get it. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world. It’s a liberal democracy. We don’t have a lot of allies over there that follow the liberal democratic traditions but a good ally urges friends to get together and work out a solution. And the Palestinians and the Israelis need to be back at the negotiating table. The United States should not be dictating terms. We should not be putting chips on the table or taking them off. But we should be pushing them to negotiate a two state solution….
I think we have to stop to acknowledge what has changed during the Trump administration. The pressure toward a two state solution obviously has gone away and in fact the whole publicly naming Jerusalem as the capital and moving our embassy. Took one of the things that should have been decided by the parties. It’s not our decision, it’s their decision and how they wanted to handle that. It made it very clear we’re standing on one side in these negotiations. And the problem with that is it. It doesn’t encourage negotiation…
[T]he way I see what you’re talking about is we have pushed it this far under the Obama administration and now Trump has completely reversed it. I don’t therefore draw the conclusion that what happened under the Obama administration was never going to work that you couldn’t keep pushing harder because over time realities are bearing down on Israel, demographic realities, births and deaths. What the region looks like and I think that that this is a moment not while Trump is in there playing the game that he’s playing but that the opportunity soon to get Israel back to the table and get the Palestinians back to the table. If we the United States can be an honest broker and can encourage again other nations other allies to help support that. I’m – I’m, I actually had just a little [glimmer of optimism].”
Re perception that Israel is aligned with the Republican Party: “Yes. And I honestly– I, I don’t think it’s good for Israel. I mean I think it’s terrible for Israel and that that’s the direction he’s going…. [Though] Trump is not forever and neither is Netanyahu.” Mondoweiss, February 22, 2019)
- “Israel lives in a dangerous part of the world where there are not a lot of liberal democracies,” Warren said. “We need a strong Israel there….a good ally is an ally that promotes peace.” (JTA, February 11, 2019)
- In May 2018, Warren was one of 13 senators who signed a letter calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “do more to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.” The letter also said, “The political and security challenges in Gaza are formidable, but support for the basic human rights of its people must not be conditioned on progress on those fronts...For the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike, the United States must act urgently to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. We stand ready to work with you on this important matter.” (Jerusalem Post, February 11, 2019)
- “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians should determine the final status of Jerusalem for all parties…. I believe a two-state solution remains the best chance for peace for all who remain in the Holy Land. I also believe neither the U.S. nor any other outside power should impose a solution, and that is why I am concerned about Trump’s decision, which I believe makes it more difficult to reach that goal….If the president is serious about peace, I urge him to produce a comprehensive strategy to achieve it. That is what American leadership demands. That is what the Israelis and Palestinians deserve.” (JTA, December 8, 2017)
Warren was one of the first Senate leaders to issue a statement of support for the Iran nuclear deal, praising it in August 2015 as “a comprehensive set of restrictions to block Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb.” She added, it “is far easier to counter the ambitions of an Iran that has no nuclear weapon than it is to counter an Iran that can threaten the world with a nuclear bomb.”
In May 2018, she said withdrawing from the Iran deal “breaks our word, hurts our credibility with our allies, empowers Iranian hardliners, and doesn’t make us any safer here at home.” The president “pulled the U.S. out without offering any real alternative to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, creating chaos and confusion across the Middle East, and the world. This isn’t a strategy. It’s a recipe for disaster.” She said in March 2019 that if she becomes president, she would seek to reenter the Iran deal. (Haaretz, June 27, 2019)
- Warren voted for the Iran nuclear deal. When asked if she would return to it, a spokesperson said that “as long as Iran continues to abide by the terms of the deal, she would return to it as president in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” (Al-Monitor, March 19, 2019)
- In January 2019 Warren criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. She agreed that US troops should be withdrawn from Syria and Afghanistan but said such withdrawals should be part of a “coordinated” plan formed with U.S. allies. (Wikipedia)
“Elizabeth Warren,” Wikipedia;
Penny Schwartz, “Debates with Israel weigh on Reform movement’s largest-ever gathering,” JTA, (December 8, 2017);
Ron Kampeas, “Why these Democratic presidential hopefuls voted no on an anti-BDS bill,” JTA, (February 8, 2019);
“Elizabeth Warren fails to dispute ‘apartheid state’ accusation,” Jerusalem Post, (February 11, 2019);
Marcy Oster, “Elizabeth Warren urges two-state solution after announcing presidential bid,” JTA, (February 11, 2019);
Philip Weiss, “Elizabeth Warren warns of ‘demographic realities, births… bearing down on Israel’ — racist code for Palestinian babies,” Mondoweiss, (February 22, 2019);
Cnaan Liphshiz, “Us Should ‘Call Out Netanyahu’s Corruption,’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren Says,” JTA, (March 1, 2019);
Batya Ungar-Sargon, “2020 Democratic Hopefuls Didn’t Abandon Israel. They Abandoned Jews,” Forward, (March 7, 2019);
Bryant Harris, “2020 Democrats vow to re-enter Iran nuclear deal,” Al-Monitor, (March 19, 2019);
Comments to American Jewish Committee, (June 3, 2019);
Amir Tibon, “Democrats With Eye on White House Increasingly Willing to Bash Bibi While Supporting Israel,” Haaretz, (June 7, 2019);
“18 Questions. 21 Democrats. Here’s What They Said,” New York Times, (June 19, 2019);
Allison Kaplan Sommer, “Does Elizabeth Warren Have a Plan for Israel?” Haaretz, (June 27, 2019);
Mike Brest, “Warren says she’ll push to end Israel’s ‘occupation,’” Washington Examiner, (July 9, 2019);
Alayna Treene and Barak Ravid, “Top 2020 Dems wouldn’t reverse Trump’s Jerusalem embassy decision,” Axios, (July 14, 2019);
Al-Monitor, (September 13, 2019).