Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday announced a plan to reverse provisions in a bankruptcy law of 2005, reliving a debate he had 15 years ago with Joseph R. Biden Jr., a United States senator at the time, on consumer protections and the credit card industry.
Bankruptcy is a critical part of Warren's political origin story, whose new plan would make it easier for families to file for bankruptcy and increase the responsibility of creditors. A former law professor who studied the subject as an academic, went to Washington for the first time as part of a blue ribbon commission to review related laws in the 1990s.
He spent a decade resisting industry efforts to tighten bankruptcy rules until such legislation, supported by Biden, was passed in 2005 despite opposition from consumer groups, making it difficult for many Americans to declare bankruptcy. She has portrayed the battle as a kind of political baptism in which she learned firsthand about a broken American system influenced by money and power that is now campaigning for reform.
But despite his central role in his life, and Biden's position as national leader for the Democratic Party nomination for most of 2019, Warren has barely mentioned his specific bankruptcy battles with Biden, which included testifying before his committee In the plan he described on Tuesday, Warren would soften the bankruptcy rules, allow students to declare student debt as part of any bankruptcy filing and allow more families to keep their homes and cars while filing for bankruptcy.
"I spent most of my career studying a simple question: why do American families go bankrupt?" Warren wrote in a medium-sized publication announcing the policy. "Our research ended up showing that most of these families were not reckless or irresponsible, but were being pressured by an economy that forced them to borrow more and risk clinging to their place in the middle class of the United States."
With less than a month until Iowa meetings, Warren is trying to regain the excitement and energy that defined his candidacy early last fall. At the same time, he has generally been more cautious than the rest of the upper level to launch attacks on his opponents.
And despite launching his new bankruptcy plan on Tuesday, he didn't mention it in an appearance on ABC's "The View" or at a large rally in Brooklyn at Kings Theater, where he spoke with an energetic progressive crowd of more than 3,000.
Earlier, Warren had called for the repeal of the 1994 crime bill, another legislative piece directed by Biden that helped reshape the criminal justice system. However, even when Mr. Biden and others have criticized his plans as politically unrealistic and financially unfeasible, she has largely avoided returning the fire.
Ms. Warren struck Mr. Biden a remarkable blow for the bankruptcy bill: the day he entered the race in April, he said that the fact that he had sided with consumers and families was " a matter of public domain. "
"I got into that fight because they just didn't have anyone," Warren said, "and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies."
But that turned out to be more an isolated note. Throughout the 2019 debates, Warren avoided directly confronting Biden about his past entanglements. He has also kept away from attacking Senator Bernie Sanders, the other favorite in the race, who has reduced his progressive support.
In the Senate, Biden had represented Delaware, a favorite state of the credit card industry, and supported the bankruptcy legislation of 2005 that Warren opposed. When she testified before her committee, he described her argument as "slightly demagogic."
She urged him to address extremely high interest rates, as well as bankruptcy protections.
"If you're not going to solve that problem," Warren told Mr. Biden about interest rates, "he can't take the last bit of protection off these families," he said, referring to bankruptcy.
"You are very good, professor," Mr. Biden replied.
Later, when Mr. Biden swore to Mrs. Warren in the Senate in 2013, she was heard willingly saying: "You gave me hell."
In her plan Tuesday, Ms. Warren called the 2005 bill "terrible for needy families" and noted that bankruptcy applications sank "permanently" by 50 percent.
"I lost that fight in 2005, and working families paid the price," he wrote.
The package does not mention Mr. Biden by name.